Zolani Tete celebrates after beating Jose Santos Gonzalez to win the IBF bantamweight title last year. Photo: Action Images / Andrew Couldridge
JOHANNESBURG - Zolani “Last Born” Tete returned from his bout against Arthur Villanueva at the Leicester Arena in England on Saturday victorious, believing he had captured the vacated WBO bantamweight title with the status of the championship yet to be confirmed by the organisation.

Tete’s title-eliminator fight had been elevated to a vacant interim title fight by the WBO five minutes before he entered the square ring against Filipino Villanueva. He won the bout by unanimous decision.

The title became vacant after Marlon Tapales, also of the Phillipines, failed to make the weight for his defence against Shohei Omori on Sunday, opening the way for Tete, a former IBF champion in the division, to have a shot at the belt.

But, according to rappler.com, the WBO has yet to confirm the status of the championship.

Even so, Tete declared himself world champion, saying: “God has his own way to answer the prayers. God told me I will be a world champion. I worked hard after I had lost my IBF belt. It was only five minutes before the fight when I heard the news (regarding Tapales). We prayed for it. We avoided not getting more excited before the fight. I knew I was going to win my match against Villanueva ...

“I would like to thank my trainer, Loyiso Mtya, and all the people who helped me to get here, including the boxing gyms that I used before my London trip,” said Tete.

The focus for Tete and Co has now shifted to IBF bantamweight champion, Britian’s Lee Haskins, who the Eastern Cape-born boxer hopes to fight in an unification title bout once he has been confirmed as the WBO’s champion.

“Haskins must fight me now or vacate his title,” Tete demanded before paying tribute to the fallen “boxing encyclopedia” Nick Durandt, who passed away at the weekend after motorbike accident.

“It was painful to hear the new of his passing before the fight but I did not want to put it on my mind. I had to adjust. I had to make sure that I won the fight for him. He was a good coach, who was dedicated to his work ... He helped me to grow as a boxer. He was always encouraging me to work even harder and to take boxing seriously. His legacy will live on. May his soul rest in peace,” said Tete. 

Mtya, thereafter, also paid his respects to Durandt. “He was the soul of boxing (in South Africa). We heard the news a few hours before the fight ... He changed the lives of many boxers and their families,” explained Mtya.

The trainer also revealed that they knew that Tete was going to win his fight with Villanueva.

“It was written in the stars. The fight was moved by two weeks not knowing what is waiting to happen and now Zolani is a world champion,” said Mtya “We will be waiting to defend or try to unify titles in the near future.”

The Star

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