Johannesburg - Zolani “Last Born” Tete’s camp is dismayed that his chances of making a voluntary defence of his World Boxing Organisation (WBO) bantamweight title have been scuppered.
He was supposed to face Siboniso Gonya, but a lack of funding from the Eastern Cape department of sports has made it impossible for the fight to take place.
According to Mlandeli Thengimfene, Tete’s manager, the fight that had been on the lips of many fans was to be staged at Mdantsane’s Sisa Dukashe Stadium on September 23.
Gonya, who is from KwaZulu-Natal, holds the WBO intercontinental crown and is third in contention for Tete’s crown.
“A tender was issued inviting all promoters to bid for the fight. Both camps agreed in principle for the tournament to be staged by Last Born Boxing Promotions,” said Thengimfene.
“We then submitted the letter that Zolani should defend against Gonya, seeing that he qualifies to challenge because of his rating. We were promised that the tournament would be funded by the provincial government, but have now learnt that it will not be funded.”
Tete is the hottest fighter in the country at the moment by virtue of having previously held the International Boxing Federation crown. Gonya has lost once in 11 professional fights.
Thengimfene said they would negotiate with their British promoter Frank Warren of Queensberry Promotions, who is planning to have Last Born matched with Mexican Luis Nery for the World Boxing Council (WBC) and WBO title unification. Nery won the WBC crown by stopping Japanese boxer Shinsuke Yamanaka in two rounds at Shimadzu Arena in Kyoto, Japan, two weeks ago.
“This will be the greatest moment for Zolani to prove his worth. Unifying the titles will make him the best thing to happen in South African boxing,” said Thengimfene.
He said that, as the fighter’s manager, he was disappointed by the lack of support from the government, “particularly for the boxer who is the only legitimate world champ in Africa”.
Tete said he would have relished a fight against Gonya.
“It’s a pity that we didn’t get funding to make the fight in South Africa as earlier promised by government. But I still feel Frank [Warren] can pull off the Nery bout deal instead,” said Tete.
The last time Tete fought against a local opponent was when he stopped Siphiwo Ntsangani in the first round of their nontitle contest at the Orient Theatre in East London in 2012.
Last Born Boxing Promotions director Xolani Mampunye said they submitted a proposal to stage the contest, but it was rejected by the sports department. City Press is in possession of a copy of the letter from the department that says the bout will not be funded.
Andile Nduna, communications manager at the Eastern Cape sports department, said: “We can confirm that we did receive a proposal as per your media enquiry. The bidder did receive correspondence on how the company fared in this regard.”
The lack of sponsorship to stage the Tete-Gonya clash poses questions as to why boxing no longer attracts as much sponsorship as it did in the past.
The sport of the fisticuffs used to enjoy massive funding with companies such as King Korn, Vodacom, Bull Brand and Jumbo Cash & Carry coming on board.
But they have since pulled out, resulting in the sport suffering immensely.
Only a handful fighters, including Hekkie Budler, Kevin Lerena and Thabiso Mchunu, are sponsored.
National Promoters Association interim committee chairperson Dingaan “The Rose of Soweto” Thobela said the body would work hard to ensure that the sport enjoys financial backing once more.
“We intend to knock on the doors of many companies to ask them to come back and sponsor boxing,” said Thobela.
He believes that one of the underlying factors leading to funders shying away from boxing is the lack of television exposure.
“We want to work closely with Boxing SA to ensure that fights enjoy more coverage.”