WBO bantamweight king Zolani Tete returned from England at the weekend brimming with confidence after he officially confirmed his participation in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) during a press conference held in London.
Tete attended the briefing with newly-crowned IBF bantamweight champion Emmanuel Rodriguez of Puerto Rico while another confirmed participant Ryan Burnett, who holds the WBA crown, could not be available.
The three boxers, who will be seeded, will be joined by the winner between Japanese Naoya Inoue and WBA regular Jamie McDonnell who will clash in two week’s time.
The series, which punched off last year in the cruiserweight and supermiddleweight divisions, has included three more divisions with the bantamweight already confirmed while the junior welterweight is yet to be officially unveiled.
The third division is still being kept under wraps.
The winner of the series in each division will walk away with a coveted Mohammad Ali Trophy.
Tete’s participation makes him the first South African boxer to be involved in such a prestigious tournament. Ironically, the bantamweight division was once involved in a similar elimination format in 2009 with Silence Mabuza narrowly missing out after he was shocked by unheralded Yonnhy Perez who snatched the spot to join Abner Mares, Vic Darchinyan and Joseph Agbeko. Mares won the four boxers’ series to catapult himself into the status of being the best fighter. Such honour awaits Tete if he remains the last man standing.
The boxer’s manager Mla Tengimfene, who accompanied his charge, said the camp was ecstatic with the possibilities awaiting the 30-year-old left-hander in the series.
“We are happy that Zolani is seeded but that means he may take a dangerous boxer in his first bout,” he said.
Besides the four already confirmed, four more boxers who will likely be mandatory challengers will be involved.
However, Cuban veteran Guillermo Rigondeaux who was also targeted has turned down his participation citing inability to boil down to the bantamweight.
The draw is scheduled to be held in Germany in July with seeded boxers choosing from an unseeded group.
There will be bonuses if a boxer fights a UK-based opponent with purses varying accordingly.
“This is going to be interesting and Zolani is pumped up for this because this is what he has been praying for,” said Tengimfene.
Dominican Republican Juan Carlos Payano is also expected to enter while other names have been bandied about but they are yet to be officially confirmed.
With the WBSS poised to produce a unified champion in the cruiserweight when Ukrainian Oleksandr Uysk clashes with Murat Gassiev of Russia for all the four belts, the winner of the bantamweight will be recognised as the true champion as well.
“I have always maintained that I am the best in the bantamweight but now I will get a chance to back it up and that fills me with excitement,” said Tete.
In the super-middleweight Callum Smith is still awaiting on injured George Groves to contest for the final.
The first quarterfinal bouts of the bantamweight series will be held in September or October with the semifinals slated for February or March while the finals will likely be contested in May next year.