Even when he was undoubtedly down on the scorecards, Brian Mendoza was confident that he would land the type of left hook that abruptly altered the course of his fight against Sebastian Fundora.
The hard-hitting Mendoza connected with comparable punches many times while sparring in preparation for their 12-round fight for Fundora’s WBC interim super welterweight title April 8 in Carson, California. It also helped that the Albuquerque native didn’t press for a knockout against a 6-foot-6 southpaw who Mendoza determined, if he were patient enough, was susceptible to getting caught clean in exchanges.
Eventually, Mendoza drilled Fundora with a left hook that hurt him early in the seventh round of a fight in which he had been shut out on two scorecards through six rounds. Mendoza followed up with a right-left combination that ensured Fundora couldn’t get up in time to beat referee Ray Corona’s count at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“It’s not that we went in there banking on just a knockout,” Mendoza told BoxingScene.com. “You know, I was still expecting to win the second half very dominantly. That was more the goal because I don’t go in there looking for one shot. I don’t go in there thinking, ‘All right, I’m just gonna knock this guy out eventually.’ I do go in there trying to win. We have a game plan we follow and that was the thing.
“And, you know, thankfully, as soon as the second half started I caught him with that shot. And absolutely, I was saying that even in the buildup, you know, I felt like he had a lot of defensive flaws and I was just, you know, the guy to finally take advantage of it.”
Mendoza’s career-changing defeat of Fundora helped him secure his shot at Tim Tszyu’s WBO junior middleweight title Saturday night. Showtime will televise Tszyu-Mendoza as the main event of a “Showtime Championship Boxing” doubleheader from Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre in Broadbeach, Australia (10:30 p.m. EDT; 7:30 p.m. PDT).
The 29-year-old Mendoza (22-2, 16 KOs) expects a very different fight versus Tszyu (23-0, 17 KOs), who’s right-handed and stands about 5-foot-9, than when he fought Fundora. The significantly taller, rangier Fundora built a 60-54, 60-54 and 59-55 lead on the scorecards entering the fateful seventh round of their “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event.
“We knew it was gonna be an ugly fight,” Mendoza said. “You know, just stylistically and everything we knew what we were getting into. And, you know, we knew we’d probably have to not so much give away early rounds, but just, you know, just put work in the bank. You know, and it would pay dividends in the later half, the second half of the fight. And that’s exactly what happened. Once that second half started, you know, [trainer Ismael] Salas told me, ‘Hey, we’re entering the second half. Start putting some real heat on those shots. You know, start really popping a little more.’ Because we really spent the first half finding the openings and, you know, trying to break him down a little bit here and there. And that’s what it was, man, I finally – it was, you know, some certain angles and stuff we were working on in the gym throughout camp and everything that we knew would pay off in the fight.
“And it worked out, you know, because it was stuff I was using in camp, in sparring and everything. I was like, ‘I know I’m landing this in the sparring. I know it’ll play out on fight night.’ You know, it was just one of those things. It was game plan stuff. And through that, finally, once I landed that shot, at first I didn’t realize just how heavy it had landed. But, you know, once I took that step back and saw that he was already basically gone, but the referee wasn’t jumping in yet. And I wasn’t gonna let him take a knee and bounce back like he did with Lubin. So, that’s why that killer instinct just jumped in. I said, ‘You know, the fight’s not over. He’s still on his feet, so we’ve gotta get him outta here.’ ”
The resilient Fundora (20-1-1, 13 KOs) got up from a seventh-round knockdown to stop Lubin after the ninth round in their “Fight of the Year” candidate in April 2022 at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. The Coachella, California native closed as a 9-1 favorite over Mendoza, who is also a big underdog against Australia’s Tszyu, -650/+450 according to DraftKings sportsbook.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.