— World Boxing Super Series (@WBSuperSeries) April 1, 2019
WBO world bantamweight champion
South African boxer Zolani Tete, 31, was sidelined by a shoulder injury earlier this year. But, he remains the WBO world bantamweight champion.
The Eastern Cape-born southpaw has based himself in the UK since signing with British boxing promoter Frank Warren. Tete, has remained unbeaten for seven years, having last lost a fight via split decision to Roberto Sosa in that opponent’s native country, Argentina.
He has since taken his pro record to 28-3, winning 21 bouts by knockout. Previous defeats also include being stopped by compatriot Moruti Mthalane for the IBF flyweight title on home soil in Brakpan back in 2010.
Since going up to bantamweight from flyweight, Tete has proved a revelation. After capturing the IBF junior and WBO Africa junior straps in this weight class, he was later IBF international champ and then WBO interim titleholder.
That latter honour came when the judges awarded him a unanimous decision victory over Filipino boxer Arthur Villanueva. Tete’s subsequent knockout of compatriot Siboniso Gonya inside 11 first-round seconds was the second-quickest KO in a world title fight in any category.
Fastest world title knockout
He has since retained the WBO bantamweight belt twice with decision wins over Omar Narvaez and Russian fighter Mikhail Aloyan. The latter was a World Boxing Super Series quarter-final and should have set up a semi scrap with Nonito Donaire.
Injury in the week of this scheduled encounter robbed Tete of the chance to continue participating in the eight-man elimination tournament. WBA super bantamweight titleholder Donaire defeated stand-in opponent Stephon Young in the semis and he’ll face unbeaten Japanese star Naoya Inoue in the final.
As the unified WBA regular and IBF bantamweight champion, bet365 have Inoue down as an overwhelming 1/25 favourite to win the Super Series final, according to their boxing betting, with Donaire the 10/1 underdog.
The whole point of Super Series tournaments is to have an undisputed kingpin in a certain division. Inoue is clearly expected to win the eventual final, but won’t be adding the WBO strap to his collection.
Whatever the outcome of this bantamweight Super Series, there’s going to be unfinished business – for all of Donaire, Inoue and Tete. The South African said he still wants to bid for unification but he’s out for several months.
As Tete missed the Super Series, he does have a mandatory challenger for the WBO bantamweight title in interim champ Johnriel Casimero. Reigning WBC champ Nordine Oubaali of France, who is unbeaten in 16 professional fights, is another possible future opponent if he wants to unify titles.
Rehabbing that injured shoulder will take time, but it’s not out of the question we could see Tete back in the ring towards the end of this year. Casimero stopped Ricardo Espinoza Franco to become interim champ back in April and will make his first defense against another Mexican in Cesar Ramirez in his native Philippines.
Tete has tough opposition whatever fight he takes when making his comeback. He arguably needs to return better than ever to realise his ambitions.