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For The Record: Zolani Tete

For The Record is a series of articles that examines the most recent five fighters on a boxer’s record, and (where possible) details what those fighters have achieved since.

This time we look at the record of WBO bantamweight champion Zolani Tete, who advanced to the semi finals of the World Boxing Super Series earlier this month.

5. Victor Ruiz (4th June 2016, W TKO 7)

Facing Tete was undoubtedly the biggest fight in the Mexican’s solid-but-unspectacular career. It was, and remains, the only time he has ever competed over a scheduled 12 rounds, whereas Tete had done so on 15 previous occasions, six of which had gone the full distance. His experience showed, and Ruiz, brave but outgunned, was eventually stopped in the seventh.

Since then his form has fallen. A comeback win against unheralded Roberto Lopez over 6 rounds in August 2016 was followed by three straight defeats, the most recent of which came in August this year against Rafael Gramajo, who dropped Ruiz in the seventh round of a scheduled 8. Ruiz may only be 27, but he has a lot of miles on the clock, and is 1-4 in his last 5 outings. We may have seen the last of him on the world stage.

4. Arthur Villanueva (22nd April 2017, W UD 12)

A step up from Ruiz. Villanueva was experienced over 12 rounds, hit hard enough to make other fighters approach with caution, and had shared the ring with respectable opposition. Tete, however, was a step ahead of him throughout their contest, and dropped him in the 11th round to take a wide points win on the cards.

He has had three contests since, winning two and losing one. Although his three losses have been against excellent opponents (Luis Nery, McJoe Arroyo and Tete are the only men to have bested him), it is hard to see how Villanueva will break into the ranks of the elite at bantamweight. Still, with four of his last five wins coming early, and another fight scheduled for late November, there maybe something meaningful in the future yet for Villanueva, although it is unlikely he will return to world level any time soon.

3. Siboniso Gonya (18th November 2017, W KO 1)

That knockout, the quickest knockout in world title history. Gonya, a Pan-African and WBO Inter-continental champion, was coming into this fight on a 5 fight win streak, but had only earned his WBO ranking the fight before facing their interim champion Tete. All his previous contests had taken place in his native South Africa against poor opposition, and his 11-1 record rightly drew skepticism from the fans, especially as this was for a world title.

Tete proved them right. The bell rang, and second later a lighting right hook lay Gonya out cold. This sadly seems appropriate in hindsight; there was not much news of Gonya before this fight, and there has been barely anything since. A son of a member of South African royalty, the likelihood is he has realised he can probably make a living doing something else.

2. Omar Andres Narvaez (21st April 2018, W UD 12)

At the turn of the decade, two-time Olympian Omar Narvaez was an excellent fighter; he debuted in 2000, was a flyweight world champion by 2002, a super-flyweight champion by 2010, and had amassed an impressive 35-0-2 record during that time. Nonito Donaire outpointed him in 2011 (at bantamweight) and Naoya Inoue devoured him in two rounds back at super-flyweight in 2014, but there is no shame in losing to such men; most people do. Following the Inoue loss, the Argentinian made the full-time leap up to 118lbs, which lead him to several victories over local opposition, and eventually to Tete, who was making the first defence of his WBO title against him.

But this was not the Narvaez of 10 years ago. He was now 42 years old and had clocked up a lot of miles over the course of 52 fights. This was the last time he would appear on the big stage, and he fought like he knew it – covering up and staying out of trouble for 12 uninspiring rounds, prompting The Ring magazine to label the fight as “the worst world title fight of the year… maybe of the decade.” Even if this was a swansong pay day, he leaves behind a superb resume which, incredibly, equals the record number of successful title defences made by a world champion. This record stands at 27, and was set by Julio Cesar Chavez.

1. Mikhail Aloyan (13th October 2018, W UD 12)

Aloyan is a highly-decorated amateur destined for great things in the professional ranks, and he made the decision to pursue such things from the outset. He held a super-flyweight silver title by his second fight, and was a bantamweight international champion by his fourth. His fifth fight however, for Tete’s world title in the World Boxing Super Series quarter final, proved a step too far, too early.

A knockdown in the opening round put him on behind early on, and he spent too many of the following sessions on the end of Tete’s ever-impressive jab without really getting his own combinations off. A point deduction widened the gap further, and the champion emerged a comfortable, but not thoroughly convincing, unanimous winner.

Aloyan will surely come again. A European champion, two-time world champion and Olympic bronze medallist won’t be derailed by such a defeat so early on, even if the stakes were high. Vasyl Lomachenko, regarded by some as the world’s greatest ever amateur, lost his second pro fight in 2014 (also for a world title) but is now among the pound-for-pound top fighters in the sport. As long as he learns from this, Aloyan still has a bright future ahead of him.

Verdict: 6.5/10 – Tete’s record is a good one, and his style makes him hard to read and hard to beat. The next stages of the WBSS will be telling; Ryan Burnett, Nonito Donaire and Naoya Inoue are among his potential opponents, and defeating any one of them will elevate his score considerably.

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