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Preview: Zolani Tete vs John Riel Casimero

Zolani Tete vs John Riel Casimero
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Matt Christie previews Zolani Tete vs John Riel Casimero

EVERYONE enjoyed the recent classic between Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight final. Everyone except Zolani Tete.

In a cruel twist of fate Tete injured his right shoulder just days before he was supposed to meet Donaire in the semi-finals seven months ago. It was a tie many favoured Tete to win. 

Stephon Young took his spot in the last four by default. Fans were robbed of Tete-Donaire but they soon got what they deserved when Donaire, after knocking out Young, then collided with Inoue in the final. One hopes that Tete – still the WBO champion – also gets what he deserves.

He’s made no secret of his desire to clash with Inoue, who beat Donaire on points, in a unification tussle. Tete would likely start as underdog but the granite-tough South African is the Japanese destroyer’s closest 118lbs rival. He might also turn out to be his worst nightmare. Frank Warren, Tete’s promoter, immediately declared his intention to match his charge with Inoue, who is now under the watchful eye of Bob Arum and Top Rank.

Before any of that can happen, though, Tete must get past Filipino puncher John Riel Casimero. The shoulder injury, reportedly diagnosed as tendonitis, means Tete has been out of action since he outscored tricky 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Mikhail Aloyan over 12 rounds in the WBSS quarter finals last October. The injury and layoff (he didn’t train for three months after it was treated in May) are not ideal preparation for a 31-year-old bantamweight. It remains to be seen if his problems will affect the fighter who looked almost invincible when he battered then-unbeaten Paul Butler in a Liverpool defence of the IBF super-flyweight title in 2015.

In Casimero he meets a fighter who is no stranger to wowing British audiences himself. In 2016 he slowly bludgeoned the ambition from a raw Charlie Edwards in a defence of the IBF flyweight title. A pressure fighter, with zap and power, not to mention a mean left hook, Casimero – also a former IBF light-flyweight boss – is far from an ideal challenger for a champion looking to shake off the cobwebs. Since halting Edwards in 10 rounds, Casimero has won five bouts, four inside schedule, winning the WBO’s Interim bantamweight bauble in the process.

However, in that time he has also been outpointed over 12 rounds in a non-title affair with countryman Jonas Sultan in a September 2017 outing that highlighted his flaws. Defensively, he’s not nearly as gifted as he is in attack. Weight issues were blamed for that disappointing performance but Casimero, 30, is a small bantamweight. Though he is significantly shorter, his raids inside will cause Tete problems if the South African fails to impose himself early. 

It all makes for an interesting bout inside the Birmingham Arena on Saturday (November 30). The upset shouldn’t be written off entirely but expect Tete to box smartly amid moments of uncertainty as Casimero tries to stamp his authority on the bout. After 12 rounds, we expect Tete to be named a clear, and deserved, points winner.

Zolani Tete
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The undercard can boast some solid domestic clashes. Sam Bowen, 27, defending his British super-featherweight title against Anthony Cacace is perhaps the pick.

Ibstock’s Bowen famously (at least in boxing circles) won the title in April 2018 – beating Maxi Hughes – while juggling full-time work with his career as a boxer. Since then he’s won two, including a successful defence when he broke down Jordan McCorry in nine, and ditched his job to focus on his life inside the ropes. That could be ominous for Cacace.

The 30-year-old from Belfast has been guilty of not giving boxing his full attention in the past though for altogether different reasons to his opponent. But the southpaw will provide a stern test in a bout that has the potential for fireworks and – for the gamblers among you – value in the upset.

Bowen, though, seems unlikely to surrender his championship. Expect Bowen to drain the ambition from Cacace with raids to the body before turning the screw late on to notch his 12th inside the distance victory from 16 outings.

Chris Jenkins’ British welterweight title defence with Liam Taylor is unlikely to be as entertaining but the outcome is no foregone conclusion. The challenger, from Middleton, earned his shot 12 months ago when he edged Tyrone Nurse over 10 rounds to reverse a loss from 2015 but it wasn’t a performance to strike fear into the 147lbs weight class.  

The champion’s breakthrough was far more impressive. He dethroned Johnny Garton in a bout that upset the odds in March but provided several members of the hardcore with a tidy profit after they backed the Welshman to win. Jenkins since emerged from a bloody encounter with Paddy Gallagher to win a technical decision after the bout went to the cards in the ninth. Jenkins, nursing cuts around both eyes, took the verdict by a single point on all three judges’ cards.

Interesting to note that Jenkins, based in Garnant, was outscored by Nurse in 2015 and, though he thrives against come-forward types like Garton, Taylor represents a different challenge entirely. Even so, the industry of Jenkins should do just enough to sway the judges’ favour after 12. 

New Malden’s Lerrone Richards and Lennox Clarke do battle for the vacant British super-middleweight title. Halesowen’s Clarke is unbeaten and strong but hasn’t gone past four rounds since defeating Jahmaine Smyle over 10 two years ago. Richards isn’t exactly a veteran of the 12-round distance himself but defeating Tommy Langford over the distance to pick up the Commonwealth strap provides the superior seasoning. Richards can do the same to Clarke here.

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