Zolani Tete wants to unify at bantamweight
On April 22, Zolani Tete and Arthur Villanueva were scheduled to fight in a WBO bantamweight title eliminator. However, in an interesting sub-plot, the titleholder, Marlon Tapales, missed weight for his own bout and Tete-Villanueva was subsequently upgraded to interim status.
Tete (25-3, 20 knockouts) won a near-shutout decision over Villanueva at the Leicester Arena in Leicester, England. Tapales stopped Shohei Omori but no longer held the belt. Tete, a former IBF junior bantamweight titlist, was therefore upgraded to full WBO bantamweight champion by that organization.
“It is a dream come true for me to become a two-time world champion,” Tete told RingTV.com. “Beating Arthur has always been planned and we prepared very hard for this fight. I thank (promoter) Mr. Frank Warren for giving me this opportunity and for believing in me and making me a world champion quicker than we had thought.
“God is great and these are the benefits of having one of the best promoters in the world. It was shocking when I was told in my dressing room, just (a) few minutes before I go to the ring, that I’m fighting for interim title now and I need to win it.”
The South African southpaw signed promotional forms with Frank Warren over a year ago, having impressed with his eighth-round destruction of Paul Butler in March 2015. Since then Tete has fought three times in the U.K.
Although he now holds a bantamweight title, the fighter known as “Last Born” still isn’t content and wants to face the other champions in unifications bouts.
“I’m living my dream,” said the 29-year-old boxer-puncher. “I always wanted to become a multi-weight champion and God is answering my prayers and (now I’m) looking forward to clinching another title in this division.”
Tete, who is rated No. 6 by THE RING at 118 pounds, has proven on several occasions that he’s one of boxing’s modern day road warriors. He has won fights in Japan, Mexico and the U.K. and fighting behind enemy lines has helped mold him as a fighter.
“Fighting outside my country has gained me all the experience that I have right now,” said Tete. “I would love to fight the WBC champion (Shinsuke Yamanaka) at bantamweight and I will beat him.”
While Tete is happy to fight anyone, anywhere, his manager Mlandeli Tengimfene is keen to peruse all options.
“I think the WBO would want us to do a mandatory defense which is not there at the moment,” he said. “Our main objective is to unify the bantamweight division and make history in South Africa, as we will be the first to have achieved that.
“It will be better if we can fight either (WBA titlist) Zhanat Zhakayanov or (IBF beltholder) Lee Haskins before we go to a big fish (Yamanaka) in Japan for WBC (and RING Magazine titles).”
Although Tete is happy fighting in the U.K., one of his dreams is to defend a world title in front of his own people.
“Frank promised when he signed Zolani to make him a world champion in 18 months and he has done it,” Tengimfene said. “We want to do a home coming defense in South Africa sometime and Frank will have to come up with a way of doing it. We enjoy fighting in U.K. but home is home (laughs).”
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright
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