Tete risks WBO bantamweight crown in Casimero fight
The Eastern Cape’s lone world boxing champion, Zolani Tete, will risk his WBO bantamweight crown against Filipino Johnriel Casimero in a high-stakes bout at Arena Birmingham in the UK on Saturday.
The fight will carry huge significance not only for Tete but the country as a whole, as the Mdantsane boxer is one of only two SA boxers who hold a major world belt.
The other — the only boxer to who has stopped him — is Moruti Mthalane, who is the IBF flyweight king.
Mthalane recently won the SA Sportsman of the Year Award at the SA National Sports Awards.
But now the focus is on Tete, who is rated as the best fighter in the land, even though he has not fought in 13 months.
After his long break from the ring due to injury, Tete’s chances against Casimero — who coincidentally lost to Mthalane in one of his four losses in 32 bouts — are viewed as even, despite boasting a better resume.
The 31-year-old is rated second in the bantamweight division by respected Ring magazine, behind its champion Naoya Inoue and Mexican Luis Nery.
In comparison, Casimero is down at ninth spot, even though the Filipino has enjoyed a career resurgence that saw Manny Pacquiao Promotions sign him.
Now backed by a powerful promoter, Casimero is confident of dethroning Tete and moving from interim champion to fully-fledged belt holder.
“We know what Casimero is all about,” Tete said.
“We are prepared for anything he comes up with but I must say it will not be easy because he has improved drastically.”
Tete’s chief trainer, Loyiso Mtya, said the key to winning the fight would be to prevent the Filipino from fighting on the inside.
“We have a reach advantage and we are also taller so we will have to make that count,” he said.
“The key would be to work the jab while using angles to avoid his swings.
“We know he will be lunging in, so we will have to time him as he comes in.”
This sounds like a good fight strategy, but only if Tete can implement it to perfection.
In boxing, a fighter is as good as his last bout and for Tete that was in October 2018 when he beat Russian Mikhail Aloyan.
Whether his body will allow him to execute his fight strategy remains to be seen.
While his boxing sharpness may have been affected by the injury and long layoff, Tete still boasts world-class credentials to carry him through the pitfalls.
Good news for local boxing fans is that the fight will be screened live on Supersport 10.