News of the split between the country’s lone major world title holder Zolani Tete and veteran trainer, Loyiso Mtya, has taken everyone by surprise, especially as it occurs just two months after a major achievement in the camp when Tete won his second credible world title.
He is already an undefeated IBF junior-bantamweight champion and the reign only ended when he vacated the title.
Now, after just three fights competing in the bantamweight division, Tete is now the WBO champion having won the title after beating Filipino Arthur Villanueva for what was initially billed as a title eliminator, before being elevated to an interim title. “Last Born” was later elevated to full champion status. While ululation and celebration were expected to follow this major achievement, Tete’s handlers, Mtya, and manager Mla Tengimfene are at war, with indications that Mtya looks headed for the exit door.
In this exclusive interview, Mtya explains why his marriage with Tete is all but over.
BOXING MECCA: I am sure you saw our report about a world-class trainer being sought to boost Zolani’s technical team and your alleged reluctance to accept this plan. What is your reaction to this report?
LOYISO MTYA: Firstly, let me deny that this plan was ever discussed with me be it informally or otherwise. To say that I am reluctant to this is blue lies.
BM: Are you telling me it was the first time you heard about it in our report?
LM: Absolutely! I was driving through East London and I saw a poster intimating that there were these plans and I immediately went looking for the Dispatch copy. After reading it, I still could not believe and having dealt with these kind of reports before, I know the meaning can be lost in translation. I immediately texted Tengimfene for clarity but he did not reply to my message.
BM: But he said the first message you sent was acerbic and you were already at war.
LM: That is also not true. Yes perhaps my subsequent messages were not too friendly but that was after I had sent him numerous ones that were not replied to.
BM: OK let’s cut to the chase. Are you against Zolani boosting his technical team by hiring a world-class trainer?
LM: Absolutely not. People must understand that this is not about Mtya or Tengimfene but Zolani’s career. I will never and, I repeat, never stand in the way of Zolani’s progress but we need to put things into perspective before we first jump to this major decision.
BM: Such as?
LM: Such as we need to analyse where Zolani is lacking and if his current team cannot help. You know each trainer has his or her own way of doing things. Some are good offensively while others are defence- oriented. This happens all over the world with elite boxers changing trainers to improve certain areas in their boxing make- up, so it is not different to Zolani.
BM: Would you say Zolani has now outgrown you and is better served under someone else’s guidance?
LM: I like your question especially as you are asking it after I made him a world champion only two months ago. We usually engage in such discussions of even considering bringing in someone else after a catastrophe but here we are discussing this when we are supposed to be celebrating.
BM: I sense this reluctance I was told about in your tone.
LM: Like I said I am not against anything that will benefit Zolani but I was expecting his team to sit down and plot the way forward now that we have achieved what we wanted. For instance, since returning from England I have been thinking about ways to make Zolani’s fights more exciting because lets face it, they are now boring because he dominates his opponents by winning round after round. Again this is the way I train him, to make his fights so easy that he hardly loses a round.
BM: Speaking about Zolani’s dominance of his opponents, did you expect him to shut Villanueva like that?
LM: Again the fight went according to my strategy because I knew that Villanueva would come in and try to make things rough in a typical Filipino performance. And he did try his roughhouse antics so much that in the early rounds he nearly dislocated Zolani’s shoulder by literally tieing it in a headlock.
BM: Zolani did not like pressure when he was still developing and there is a feeling that he still cannot take it.
ML: That is a brilliant observation. I transformed Zolani from a boxer who did not take pressure to someone who knows what to do against an aggressive boxer. I also shored up his defence to ensure that he hardly gets touched in the ring. What we need to do now or what I was planning on was to make him more entertaining by enhancing his offence, such as dropping more combinations that this safety-first approach. I am not saying he would abandon his defence and recklessly charge in but it would be a measured offence.
BM: I hear Zolani sent you a message the other day asking you when you guys would resume training.
LM: Yes he did and I told him to first speak to his manager before I could come back.
BM: But again Mla says he called you into a meeting but you declined to attend.
ML: You know Mesuli, I really do not deserve these petty issues after what I have achieved in my boxing life. I never imagined I would be back engaging in this pointless debate about petty issues because I only accepted the job to train Zolani to add my value to his talent – not to stoop this low.
BM: Are you therefore denying that you were ever called into a meeting?
ML: This so-called meeting was sent on Facebook for all members of All Winners club and I did not think my issue should be discussed with people who had nothing to do with it. Like I said, my history speaks for itself.
BM: What is you feeling about Tengimfene as a manager?
LM: Again I would choose to reserve my comment here because I know plenty of stuff in boxing so I cannot be easily fooled.
BM: Did you hear about the rumours that Vuyani Bungu may be the target?
ML: Actually I did not but I would be disappointed if this world-class trainer they are talking about is Bungu. I have nothing about Vuyani as a person because we all know he is good and down-to-earth man but did he not train Zolani before? is he not responsible for Zolani’s lone stoppage defeat? I am just asking.
BM: In your view which trainer in the country is qualified to be roped in?
ML: No one! Zolani has been with Mzi Mnguni, Bungu, Nick Durandt and I speak without any fear of contradiction when I say there is no trainer in the country who can add anything new to Zolani than what I have already done. I am not blowing my horn but results speak for themselves.
BM: How do you feel about these turn of events?
ML: Very disappointed to say the least. I have been ill-treated here and I do not know why. My hope is just that all these reasons give are in the best interest of Zolani. I truly hope there are no underhand tactics here.
BM: Why do you say that? Did you engage in discussion with Mla about management issues surrounding Zolani?
ML: Yes I did and I will leave it at that at the moment.