CAPE TOWN – Eastern Cape bantamweight Zolani 'Last Born' Tete oozed class over 12 rounds on his way to an emphatic points win over Filipino Arthur Villanueva on Saturday's 'City of Champions’ card at Leicester Arena, England.
The fight was a title eliminator for the WBO bantamweight crown held by Filipino Marlon Tapales who claimed the belt last July. Tete was in command from the opening bell and in the 11th round, he dropped Villanueva.
After 12 rounds, Tete was declared the unanimous points winner with scores of 120-107 and 119-108 (twice). Despite the huge margins, the fight was not one-sided but on the occasions when Villanueva broke through his opponent's defences, Tete responded almost immediately with telling counter-punches to wrest back the initiative.
A television commentator described Tete' performance as 'punch perfect' afterwards.
Meanwhile, in an interesting development, WBO President Francisco 'Paco' Valcarcel, announced before the start of the bout that Tapales had been stripped of the title because he failed to make weight at the weigh-in for his scheduled defence against Japan's Shohei Omori on Sunday in Osaka Japan.
As Tete's bout against Villanueva was originally scheduled to be an elimination bout to determine the mandatory challenger for the WBO bantamweight title, it was elevated to an interim title fight. In the event of Omori winning, he'll be declared the champion.
Previously, the Mdantsane-born Tete, 29, won the IBF super flyweight title in December 2015. Tete fights under the banner of British promoter Frank Warren. During the pre-fight announcements, Tete and one of his cornermen wore a T-shirt bearing the late Nick Durandt's photo with the words RIP. A few years ago, Tete was trained by Durandt.