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Who is Zolani Tete?

By Joaquin Henson
Thu, 08 Nov 2018

Zolani Tete.

The man whom newly-crowned WBA bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire, Jr. is facing next is a 5-9 South African with a 72-inch wingspan and a long list of victims that includes five Filipinos. Zolani Tete, 30, is the reigning WBO titlist and will take on Donaire in the World Boxing Super Series semifinals sometime next year. The winner of that encounter will advance to battle the survivor of the other semifinal pairing between Japan’s Naoya Inoue and IBF ruler Emmanuel Rodriguez of Puerto Rico for global recognition as the unified champion with the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy as a bonus.

Tete’s record is 28-3, with 21 KOs. Three of his victims who went the distance were Filipinos Arthur Villanueva, Jether Oliva and Richard Garcia. He holds the world record for posting the fastest knockout in championship history, disposing of countryman Siboniso Gonya in only 11 seconds with a right to the head to retain the WBO 118-pound crown last year. Two other first round knockout victims were Filipinos Eduard Penerio and Rexon Flores.

In Tete’s three losses, two were by close decisions, one split and the other majority. His only defeat inside the distance was a stoppage by Donaire victim Moruti Mthalane. He has been floored by Mthalane and Mexico’s Juan Carlos Sanchez. Tete, whose father is a pastor, is known to be a crafty fighter who resorts to devious tricks like holding and butting. He has been docked points in at least three outings.

When Donaire halted Ryan Burnett to wrest the WBA crown in Glasgow last Saturday, a Fil-Scottish fighter would’ve wanted to witness the event. John Thain, whose mother Rizalina Aying is from Mindanao, said he failed to watch the fight because of work. Thain’s late father John, a Scottish sailor in the merchant navy, met his mother while working in the Philippines. The couple moved to Scotland in 1986 and Thain was born a year later in Edinburgh. The six-foot Thain, 31, visited the Philippines as a baby and returned in 2006 to meet relatives in Cebu. Thain’s pro record is 17-4, with 1 KO. He’s a part-time taxi driver.

“I am so pleased that Nonito won the title but I felt bad for Burnett as it was a bad injury,” said Thain. “Nonito is proof that age is just a number. I planned to go to the fights but unfortunately, I couldn’t as I had to work. But I’m training hard.” Last July, he lost a 12-round decision to Nigeria’s Larry Ekundayo for the vacant IBF European welterweight crown in Bethnal Green, England.

Burnett surrendered at the start of the fifth round supposedly because of a back injury. It appeared that he twisted his hip after throwing a right straight that missed in the fourth canto. He was carried out of the ring on a stretcher. But in the hospital, Burnett was given only pain killers and discharged without confinement.

Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza, former ABAP chairman, said he suspects Burnett suffered a fractured rib cage from Donaire’s body shots. “It could also be an accumulation of punches to the body,” said Daza. “You don’t feel the pain until later so it’s possible Burnett had a delayed reaction to the punishment.”

What impressed Daza wasn’t so much Donaire’s body work but his class act of showing concern for Burnett after the fight was halted. “I’ve been involved in pro and amateur boxing for decades, way before martial law when I managed and promoted fights with Rod Nazario at the Besa Arena,” he said. “As the saying goes, them were the days. Marcelino Dizon was the Araneta matchmaker during that time and Araneta employed an American trainer Dee Dee Armour. In my years in boxing, I’d never seen a fighter displaying so much compassion. He took down the title belt from his shoulder to assist putting Burnett on a stretcher and kept consoling Burnett and his handlers. Donaire didn’t even celebrate his victory.”

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