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'Forgotten' Tete gets another chance to redeem his career

Boxer will face IBF champ Cunningham in the UK

Former IBF junior-bantamweight champion Zolani "Last Born" Tete.
Former IBF junior-bantamweight champion Zolani "Last Born" Tete.
Image: Mark Andrews

It ain’t over until the fat lady sings. That idiom talks to the life of once worshipped two-weight world boxing champion Zolani “Last Born” Tete.

Tete was written off when he lost the WBO bantamweight belt on a third-round knockout by Filipino John Riel Casimero in 2019. The government’s ban on travelling due to Covid-19 restrictions in 2020 made it even worse. Naysayers said there was nothing profitable for UK promoter Frank Warren to continue working with the former world champion from SA.

Tete’s industrious manager Mlandeli Tengimfene got his charge a spot in a tournament that was staged at Booysens by the Gauteng Boxing Promoters Association.

Warren paid purse money for Tete and his Tanzanian foe – Iddy Kayumba – who went down in 55 seconds in round one in December.

Negativity still reigned supreme for the former IBF junior-bantamweight champion, Tete, who made history in 2017 when he retained his WBO bantamweight belt in 11 seconds against Sboniso Gonya. That was the fastest knockout in world championship fight history.

In a move that demonstrated faith in Tete, Warren has signed him to challenge IBF International and Commonwealth junior-featherweight champion Jayson Cunningham in the UK on July 2. They first extended their contract by an additional two years.

“Frank’s offer of seven fights in two years comes with [an] unbelievable amount of money in terms of purse,” said Tengimfene. “He also promised that in between those fights he will push for Zolani to fight for a world title and that should he succeed, then the contract and purse money will have to be renegotiated.”

Tengimfene said Tete’s fight against Cunningham was initially set for June 11. “Jason requested more time to prepare and that suited us fine. Zolani was preparing for an orthodox fighter – so this extension allows us to prepare for Jason, who is a southpaw,” explained Tengimfene, who announced that trainer Loyiso Mtya has rejoined them.

“We did an introspection and then decided to sit down with him in a meeting. He put down his conditions and Zolani came with his. I also raised my issues first with Zolani and later with Bra Loyiso. We then washed each other’s wounds and I am telling you that work already began last week.”

Tengimfene, of All Winners Gym, added: “I have already approached some trainers for their left-handed fighters Azinga Fuzile and Aphiwe Mboyiya, for quality sparring. This is do or die for Zolani and we have to make sure that everything goes the way he wants it to.”

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