Zolani Tete: ‘Let me deal with John Riel Casimero, then face Naoya Inoue’
On Saturday, WBO bantamweight beltholder Zolani Tete will look to make the fourth successful defense of his title against former two-division titlist John Riel Casimero at the Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, England.
Tete, who is rated No. 2 by The Ring at 118 pounds, is expecting a tough challenge from the power-punching Filipino.
“I have watched a lot of his fights and he has improved in his last three fights,” Tete (28-3, 21 knockouts) told The Ring, “but the old habits are still there and I will deal with those tendencies.
“He brings the fight and takes you out of the comfort zone. This alone makes me alert.”
The 31-year-old South African last fought when he bested Mikhail Aloyan in the quarterfinals of the World Boxing Super Series in October of last year. He had been scheduled to face Nonito Donaire in the eagerly anticipated semifinal only for fate to cruelly intervene.
His manager, Mlandeli Tengimfene, had to make a decision for the long-term and elected to pull his fighter out the week of the fight.
“I had to take that decision for his career and health,” said Tengimfene. “Today [Tete] is defending his belt that he could have lost due to injury, had we continued with the fight. He cried hysterically on that Monday night when I told him that I am pulling him out and today he is fine with it.”
It was difficult for Tete initially but he has used that disappointment to motivate himself for his return.
“Disappointed is an understatement; it was disastrous,” said the tall southpaw. “I wanted to fight Donaire for my resume, let alone wanting to be in the final.
“The injury was due to overuse of the shoulder. That’s what the doctor says and I am now guarding against that. The doctor referred me to the physiotherapist, whom I praise for a sterling job; well done. There was no operation; it was merely hand therapy.
“Thirteen months is too long to be out of ring. The injury has completely healed and I am raring to go.”
Tete watched the WBSS final between The Ring Magazine/IBF/WBA champion Naoya Inoue and Donaire and hopes his time will come in the New Year.
“The fight between the two great boxers was one of the best I have watched after so many years,” he said. “Donaire got out of the shelter and forced his way and became a general in that ring. Inoue had to bring his ‘A’ game or else he was going to kiss his ‘0’ goodbye.
“Inoue is not indispensable; he is beatable. Let me deal with Casimero, then face Inoue, wherever he wants us to fight, preferably in the States.”
Francis Warren of Queensberry Promotions, who promotes Tete, is confident that if his fighter does his part against Casimero, he can get a fight with Inoue.
“We want Zolani in the biggest fights that are out there,” Warren said. “We want him to pick up all the belts. Inoue had a terrific win against the legend that is Donaire, in a cracking fight. It’s a shame Tete didn’t get to fight Donaire in the semifinal, ’cause I think that would have been a cracker as well. I think the outcome would have been the same and Zolani would have beat Nonito also.
“You’ve got the two best guys in the division to meet up at some point next year. All the options are open to both guys. That’s what happens to winners.”
Casimero (28-4, 19 knockouts) turned professional in 2007. He won his first 14 bouts before tasting defeat for the first time, dropping a razor-thin split decision to Ramon Hirales in Mexico. He was stopped in five rounds by Moruti Mthalane in an IBF flyweight title fight in March 2011. However the Filipino rebounded to win the IBF junior flyweight title, away from home, and fought in hostile territory in Argentina, Mexico and Panama before stepping up to flyweight. There he won the IBF title by knocking out Amnat Ruenroeng in a rematch. He elected to move up in weight but lost to countryman Jonas Sultan. He has since rebuilt and won four fights to earn his title opportunity.
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