Sunday, May 28, 2023  |



Zolani Tete trashes predictions, knocks out Paul Butler in eight

Fighters Network

South African Zolani Tete scored a spectacular and dominant eighth-round knockout over Paul Butler to retain his IBF junior bantamweight title in Liverpool, England, making a mockery of the oddsmakers who labeled him an underdog.

Tete, rated No. 5 by THE RING at 115 pounds going into the fight, closed the show with incredible flair. A placed left uppercut was a warning sign which the challenger ignored at his peril and what came next was exceptional. The opening established, Tete released the same shot again, with crushing power, poleaxing Butler, who hit the canvas in an eye blink.

The challenger was finished and the official time of the stoppage was 1:34.

I knew Paul was a good fighter but I had the chance to score a knockout,” Tete said when interviewed by BoxNation in the U.K. “I’m looking forward to defending my title again and taking part in unification fights.”

Paul Butler is counted out after going down at the hands of Zolani Tete. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images.

Paul Butler is counted out after going down at the hands of Zolani Tete. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images.

The visitor controlled ring center from the start, working behind a spearing and accurate right jab. Butler, a former IBF bantamweight titleholder, appeared poised and sharp as he came forward but could not locate the proper distance to let his hands go and was continually a step behind.

As the rounds progressed the damage intensified and the British challenger was having a nightmare in front of his home support. Tete was boxing beautifully, threading home long left hands to the chin and to the pit of the stomach. On the rare occasions when he closed the gap, Butler was tied up, turned, and pushed away.

He did have moderate success in the fifth, nailing his man with a brace of sharp left hooks to the head, but his nose was burst across his face by another cluster of straight shots. Tete, now enjoying himself, was planting his feet more and putting real voltage on the left hand which began catching Butler with ominous regularity.

Boxing at Echo ArenaThe challenger was made to flounder when he attempted to counterpunch and, ultimately, was left demoralized by his lack of success against a true craftsman. We’re only in March and the finishing shot will be a contender for knockout of the year.

Butler (17-1, 8 knockouts) won a split decision against countryman Stuart Hall last summer to capture the IBF bantamweight title but insisted that his foray into 118-pound territory was for one fight only. More natural at 115, he vacated almost immediately and targeted Tete, a rangy and highly efficient boxer-puncher.

Victory would have validated “The Baby Faced Assassin” as a top player at junior bantamweight but he didn’t come close.

Butler said, “He was very good and the better man won on the night. He stood off and picked his shots very well and we knew by his record that he carried plenty of power. He’s a great champion.”

Tete (20-3, 17 KOs) should be applauded for what was his third successive victory on enemy ground. He won an IBF eliminator by knocking out Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr in Mexico. He won the vacant title by outscoring Teiru Kinoshita in Japan. Tonight he defeated one of the hottest young fighters in British boxing, on U.K. soil, almost effortlessly.

This was one very classy display.

The 28-year-old Butler can come back if matched properly. The sharpshooting southpaw style of Tete will be problematic for any 115-pound fighter and it’s unlikely that the pint-sized Brit will encounter another opponent with the sum of his parts for a very long time.

Tete weighed in officially at 114 pounds with Butler bang on the division limit at 115.

Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing