The WBSS semi-finals finally kick off this coming weekend, and in regards to Asian boxing we'll get the first of the two Bantamweight semi-final bouts, as WBA "super" champion Nonito Donaire (39-5, 25) takes on WBO king Zolani Tete (28-3, 21). The winner will not only unify the titles but also advance to the WBSS Bantamweight final, later in the year, where they will face either Naoya Inoue or Emmanuel Rodriguez.
Whilst the WBSS has stalled losing it's shine shine and momentum this year, the competition is still something that has got fan interest and this bout certainly looks to be one of the most interesting of the tournament so far. It pits established names against each other, both men who are in their 30's, both of whom will know that winning the WBSS tournament will be the biggest achievement of their career. It gives both the chance to not only unify two titles with this bout, but also add the IBF title in the final, and really stamp their mark on the Bantamweight division.
The 36 year old Donaire is a modern day legend. He has not only been one of the most genuine, classy and likable fighters in the sport, but also a lower weight superstar. Since shocking Vic Darchinyan back in 2007 for the IBF Flyweight we have seen Donaire as one of the faces of the lower weight classes. Over the last decade or so he has scored notable wins over a real who's who, including Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Fernando Montiel, Omar Andres Narvaez, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, Toshiaki Nishioka, Jorge Arce, Simpiwe Vetyeka and most recently Ryan Burnett. Whilst the level of performance varied it's hard to doubt the level of wins Donaire has picked up.
Despite a host of big wins Donaire has picked up losses in recent years, losing 4 of his last 12 bouts. Those losses have however come to world class fighters Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nicholas Walters, Jessie Magdaleno and Carl Frampton. Those losses have shown that Donaire, at times, wasn't a master boxer, wasn't lightening quick and was event fighting above his best weight. Despite those issues he was always a very dangerous puncher, with one of the most devastatings hooks in the sport.
In the ring Donaire isn't as quick or as sharp as he once was, but he is a strong, powerful, skilled fighter. If he boxes at 118lbs he won't have the sharpness to hold his own, but if he applies an intelligent pressure style, he will be able to impose his will on most opponents. Although Ryan Burnett made him look slow in their bout last year Donaire's pressure was having success and we suspect to see that type of game plan from him again here.
Donaire's opponent is 31 year old South African Zolani Tete, a rangy, tall and skilled fighter who really is a phsyical freak at 118lbs. Like many top South African fighters it took a long time for Tete to get much international attention, that's despite fighting for a world title way back in 2010, when he lost to Moruti Mthalane. Tete would in fact go 3-2 following his first loss, losing razor thin decisions to Jaun Alberto Rosas and Roberto Domingo Sosa, both on the road. Since those 3 losses he has won 12 in a row, become a 2-weight champion and finally got some respect as a top fighter.
The recent winning run of Tete has seen him defeat Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr, Teiru Kinoshita, who he beat for the IBF Super Flyweight title, Paul Butler, Arthur Villanueva, Siboniso Gonya, Omar Andrez Narvaez and Mikhail Aloyan. Against Butler he looked sensational, against Gonya he looked destructive, but those bouts aside he has left himself open to criticism, as lack a killer instinct, and being too happy at winning, rather than wanting to win and look good. There's been a bit of a "fighting in third gear" feel about his recent showings, and they have seen him look less than great.
Despite not looking amazing Tete is a quick, sharp fighter, with solid power, a great judge of distance, accurate punches and good movement. He lacks a real spitefulness to his work, in general, but is a hugely skilled fighter who has the sort of size rarely seen at Bantamweight. He's very tall and very long.
Coming in to this we're expecting a pretty clear stylistic match up. Tete will look to use his reach, his speed and his jab, he will look to keep Donaire at range and rack up the rounds. Donaire on the other hand might begin as a boxer but will revert to being a pressure fighter as the bout goes on, bringing the heat and looking to beat down Tete with heavy leather.
We can see both men winning. We can clearly see Tete putting on a boxing class, fighting safely and racking up the early rounds before cruising to a closer than it should be decision. We can also see Donaire's vicious power and physicality breaking down Tete in the middle rounds.
We'd love to see a Donaire win, and we'd obviously love a Donaire Vs Inoue final, but it would be an upset for him to do it at his age. Instead we're going with a Tete decision win, with the South African staying sharp, on his toes and alert of the danger Donaire brings. He'll not put on a show, but he will get the win.
Preduction UD12 Tete.
Through out history boxing has taken place in a variety of venues. They have ranged from local gyms to casinos, from parking lots to prisons and even the occasional restaurant. We've never before heard of a fight taking place a hotel where one of the fighters actually works a day job but on July 18th that's exactly what will be happening as the unbeaten Teiru Kinoshita (19-0-1, 3) steps up to face hard hitting South African Zolani Tete (18-3, 16) in a bout for the vacant IBF Super Flyweight title at the Portopia Hotel. Whilst we doubt it's the first time a staff member has fought at work, we don't think it's ever been for a world title.
For Kinoshita this really is a huge step up. Up to now his biggest fights have been on the Japanese domestic scene where he has claimed the Japanese title and made numerous defences, including victories over former world title challengers Atsushi Kakutani and Junichi Ebisuoka. Unfortunately for Kinoshita those bouts are at a very, very different level to this one and to compare Kakutani and Ebisuoka to Tete would be a major mistake.
One problem with trying to see what Kinoshita is all about is a lack of footage. From what we could find only one bout, his 6th against Thailand's Petchklongphai Sor Thantip, was actually out there for us to watch without too many problems. What that bout suggested was that Kinoshita was a tricky fighter to go up against with a south paw stance, a tall and rangy body and very nice speed. Unfortunately we also saw a fighter with very little power and who was unable to really hurt the Thai, other than a head clash that effectively saw Petchklongphai mentally quitting.
We're not going to say the Kinoshita of today is the same fighter as the one who beat Petchklongphai but with little to go on we do imagine that he's still a tricky fighter with speed and little power. He's a fighter who will likely have developed technically and seems to have good stamina but he did struggle past Kenji Oba, Atsushi Kakutani and Go Onaga and has never been in a 12 round contest before suggesting that this a step up not just in terms of opponent but also length of fight.
In Tete we have a real world level fighter with experience in an around the world level. This has been shown in his bouts with Moruti Mthalane, Juan Alberto Rosas, Roberto Domingo Sosa and most recently Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. Although Tete came up clearly short against Mthalane, losing by 5th round TKO, he was very unlucky to lose to both Rosas and Sosa in bouts that could very easily have gone his way had he not been the away fighter. Thankfully for Tete he didn't let the bout with Sanchez go the distance and instead he finished off the Mexican in the 10th round to secure himself an IBF world title bout.
Whilst Tete has the obvious edge in "quality of experience" he also has the edge in power, clearly, and although he's fighting away from home he is experienced with fights outside of South Africa with 3 previous fights in South America, all of which have seen him perform very well despite only winning one of them. He also, notably, has experience with southpaws and is one himself. His experience against Sanchez is likely to be invaluable here, especially when you consider that Kinoshita's best southpaw opponent so far has been Go Onaga who isn't at world level despite a top 10 IBF ranking.
From what we've seen of the two men Kinoshita is the faster and busier of the two fighters, though of course we've not managed to see a lot of him. Tete is the puncher, he's not likely throw a lot but what he connects with tends to hurt. The big question going in to the fight is "can Kinoshita take the power of Tete?" If he can then we have to favour Kinoshita to out work Tete, especially with his co-workers all cheering him on. If Kinoshita can't handle the power of Tete then this is likely to be a painful experience for Kinoshita who would almost certainly end up being the 17th stoppage victim in 20 fights for Tete.
We'd love to see Kinoshita win, it would be a great way to announce himself on the world stage. Sadly we think Tete's high level experience and power will be the difference between the two men. Fingers crossed for Kinoshita but he's in the toughest test of his career, by far, and will have give a career defining performance to come out on top.
(Image courtesy of http://www.dio-s.com/senrima)
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.