Sebastian Fundora sauntered toward the boxing ring inside the Armory in Minneapolis on April 13, 2018, as a debutante under the Premier Boxing Champions banner. He was an anonymous, gangly, 6-foot-6-inch, 20-year-old super welterweight who still seems way too tall for the division.
But as he’d learn before the fight began, he wasn’t just Fundora anymore. He was, for the first time publicly, “The Towering Inferno.”
“I knew the height would always be noticed, but a name like that — I didn’t expect anything like that,” said Fundora, who received the nickname from promoter Sampson Lewkowicz and was introduced as such for the first time that night by the ring announcer.
“Honestly, I didn’t care for it at first, but through time, I guess it just grew on me and I just started liking it. Now everybody is saying it’s one of the best boxing nicknames right now. Hey, I’ll take it.”
Fundora, now 24, is just that: a giant in a division befit for significantly shorter fighters who masks knockout power with a shy, boyish smile and is ready now for championship contention. He fights fellow 154-pound contender Erickson Lubin on Saturday for the WBC’s interim title at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
The winner could soon face either Jermell Charlo or Brian Castano, who fight May 14 for the undisputed super welterweight championship.
“I can guarantee this fight is going to be an inferno,” Fundora said, acknowledging his now beloved moniker. “We’re number one and number two. Winner fights the champion for sure, so we’re going to give our all.”
His father and trainer, Freddy, was a boxer and his mother, Monique, boxed, too. So naturally, Fundora and his five siblings would dabble in the sweet science in various cities in their native Florida. He can’t remember if he was 3 or 4 when he first donned a pair of boxing gloves.
But he knew by 8 that he wanted to become a professional boxer. And nothing else.
“There was no, like, ‘I want to be a fireman or a cop,’” he said.
Fundora (18-0-1, 12 knockouts) debuted that same year as an amateur and would spend his adolescence traveling the country by car to compete in tournaments alongside siblings Alberto and Gabriel, who, now, too are professionals. The family relocated to Coachella, California, when Fundora was 9 and would train as a collective, fostering healthy competition and familial camaraderie.
He was always taller than his peers and learned through 100-plus amateur fights how use the uncanny height and reach to his advantage. He debuted professionally on Sept. 24, 2016 — winning his first fight by first-round stoppage.
Alignment with PBC two years later helped increase his visibility, thereby triggering his trek toward title contention.
“I feel like I’m at where I deserve to be, because of all the work I put myself through,” Fundora said. “We’re just going to keep going until we become a world champion.”
Fundora’s unique blend of size, skill and power has helped him overwhelm a majority of his opponents. His reach generally allows him to control distance. But he’s equally comfortable in tight quarters, using his frame to wear out opponents and set up power punches.
He’ll face on Saturday his best opponent yet in Lubin (24-1, 17 KOs), who lost only to Charlo and also operates as a power puncher.
Albeit one nine inches shorter than “The Towering Inferno.”
Who: Sebastian Fundora (18-0-1, 12 KOs) vs. Erickson Lubin (24-1, 17 KOs); super welterweights; 12 rounds
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Virgin Hotels Las Vegas
Tickets: Starting at $70 on axs.com
Odds: Lubin -150, Fundora +125