Zolani Tete dispels fears of ring rust in title fight
The IBF junior-featherweight world boxing championship match between defending champion Lehlohonolo Ledwaba and Manny Pacquiao happened 18 years ago but the devastating outcome was so painful to South Africans that they would not want that to happen again.
Pacquiao stopped Ledwaba in the sixth round and the Filipino went on to win multiple belts in various weight categories while Ledwaba's career hit an all-time low.
Ledwaba's former student Zolani "Last Born" Tete faces Pacquiao's charge John Riel Casimero in what will be Tete's fourth defence of the WBO bantamweight belt at Arena Birmingham in Birmingham, UK, tomorrow night.
Ledwaba, now a boxing trainer, guided Tete to the IBF junior-bantamweight belt in 2014. That victory persuaded top British promoter Frank Warren to sign Tete.
Warren's Queensbury Promotions will stage tomorrow's fight.
Hopefully, the year-long layoff will not affect Tete, who last fought in October last year.
The lay-off was caused by an injury to his right shoulder, which forced him out of the semifinal of the World Boxing Super Series against Nonito Donaire.
Tete said: "Yes, I am concerned about ring rust because I used to be an active boxer but the way I've been training and preparing with my team, it will not affect me.
"I am ready physically and mentally and nothing will stop me from my journey."
Casimero, the former IBF junior-flyweight and flyweight holder, was installed as the interim WBO champion after defeating Ricardo Espinoza Franco on April 20. He defended against Cesar Ramirez in August to earn the No1 spot.
Tete has publicly called on IBF and WBA Super champion Naoya Inoue for a unification bout. That will be another money-spinning bout for Tete, who will pocket R3.2m for his defence against Casimero.
Tete's manager Mlandeli Tengimfene warned: "I can promise you one thing and that is we will bring our belt back home."