WBO bantamweight champion Zolani ‘Last Born’ Tete 28-3 (21) insists his focus remains on his title defence against Filipino Johnriel Casimero 28-4 (19) at Arena Birmingham in Birmingham, England on November 30 and not WBA and IBF 118-pound champion Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue 19-0 (16).
The 31-year-old South African southpaw was on track to meet Inoue in the final of the World Boxing Super Series but had to withdraw from his scheduled fight against eventual runner-up Nonito Donaire in April after suffering a shoulder injury.
Inoue, 26, would go on to outpoint Donaire over 12-rounds in Japan to claim the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy earlier this month.
While Tete still wants to face Inoue in a unification bout, his manager Mlandeli Tengimfene says his immediate focus is on defeating Casimero.
“No, he’s not losing focus at all,” Tengimfene said to Sowetan Live. “We have been preparing for Casimero since the announcement was made in September. At some point we had to tone down our training.”
Tengimfene went on to say that they watched seven Casimero fights – three that he won and four that he lost. One of those losses came by fifth-round stoppage against IBF flyweight champion Moruti ‘Babyface’ Mthalane in Johannesburg in March 2011.
In Mthalane’s previous fight six month earlier, he also stopped Tete in five frames.
The key to victory, according to Tengimfene, is to accentuate Tete’s southpaw style.
“We picked up that Casimero has never fought a lefthander and we then made Zolani exaggerate his left-hand stance in training so that we frustrate Casimero,” he said.
Tete’s trainer Loyiso Mtya said Casimero has improved as a fighter since the Mthalane bout, particularly since moving up in weight.
“He was young, up and coming then. He looks bigger and more solid at bantamweight than when he fought Mthalane at flyweight,” Mtya said.
“We know him the way we think he knows us.”