Tete flat­tens mys­tery mal­ady

Six years ago, boxer Zolani Tete suf­fered an ap­par­ent stroke but now he is ju­nior ban­tamweight cham­pion of the world, writes

Daily Dispatch - - Front Page -

SO MANY sto­ries of tri­umph over ad­ver­sity have been writ­ten but Zolani Tete’s win­ning a ma­jor world ti­tle after what looked like a mi­nor stroke is some­thing of a mir­a­cle.

Two months ago Tete trav­elled to Ja­pan to face un­beaten lo­cal boxer Teiru Ki­noshita for the va­cant IBF world ju­nior ban­tamweight crown and re­turned home tri­umphant, a rare oc­cur­rence for South African box­ers.

Now he is perched atop of the box­ing sum­mit and well in the hunt for big money fights. Yet, only six years ago he was in dan­ger of quit­ting the sport he loves.

He was about to go for a morn­ing run in prepa­ra­tion for his WBF fly­weight ti­tle de­fence when he sud­denly col­lapsed in front of his NU12 Mdantsane home.

He was rushed to Ce­cilia Maki­wane hos­pi­tal where doc­tors could not put a fin­ger on the prob­lem. The left side of his body had sagged and he could not move his arms.

It was sus­pected that he had suf­fered a mi­nor stroke but doc­tors could not read­ily di­ag­nose it.

Tete him­self also can­not ex­plain what re­ally hap­pened. “I still do not know. “But I am glad I was able to re­cover and con­tinue with my box­ing ca­reer,” he says as he shakes his head in be­wil­der­ment.

The be­fud­dling fact was that doc­tors could not find any­thing wrong with him. As if sin­is­ter forces were block­ing him to fight lo­cally Tete then suf­fered a bizarre in­jury to his “pri­vate area” while pre­par­ing for the clash against Unathi Gqokoma for the va­cant SA ju­nior ban­tamweight ti­tle last year.

This forced him to for­feit his na­tional ti­tle as­pi­ra­tions but as fate would have it that was to prove a bless­ing in dis­guise as he got the nod to fight for the IBF ti­tle elim­i­na­tor against Juan Car­los Sanchez in Mex­ico in Novem­ber.

While Tete’s in­ex­pli­ca­ble ill­ness has af­fected him when fight­ing at home, it also reared its ugly head when he fought in Mex­ico in 2011.

Con­test­ing for the IBF ju­nior ban­tamweight ti­tle elim­i­na­tor against Al­berto Rosas, Tete was ahead in the fight un­til the sev­enth round when he sud­denly felt dizzy with­out be­ing hit.

He dropped his hands and went to the ropes where Rosas seized the op­por­tu­nity to pound away.

When he re­turned to his cor­ner he says he “saw the ap­pari­tion of an old black woman in the crowd.

“This old woman was look­ing straight at me and shak­ing her head,” Tete re­calls.

His then trainer Nick Du­randt screamed at him ask­ing him what was wrong but Tete’s eyes re­mained glazed as if he was in a trance.

Du­randt had to give his boxer a ‘vi­cious klap’ and quite sud­denly Tete re­cov­ered.

“After Nick had hit him he sud­denly woke up and went back to the fight,” con­firms his man­ager Mla Tengim­fene.

Tete con­tro­ver­sially lost the fight via a split decision.

But he got another op­por­tu­nity to contest for the IBF elim­i­na­tor back in Mex­ico against Sanchez after sen­sa­tion­ally knock­ing out Filipino Ed­uard Pene­rio in one round.

This time noth­ing amiss hap­pened ex­cept that when the Tete team got to Mex­ico they were given the merry go round by a taxi cab driver. This de­spite the fact that their pro­moter Branco Milenkovic had told them that they were booked at a ho­tel at the air­port.

“We shouted for the taxi to stop to no avail un­til we had no choice but to jump off at the traf­fic lights,” Tengim­n­fene said.

Tete knocked out Sanchez in the 10th round of their ding-dong bat­tle that was voted as the IBF Fight of the Year.

The win earned him a clash against Ki­noshita for the va­cant IBF crown and Tete scored a lop­sided vic­tory.

Not known to many is the fact that his mother ini­tially re­fused to al­low him to box.

His fa­ther Zo­lile says Zolani was born with ifokotho (a soft spot at the back of the head) and this caused his mother Nomonde to dis­cour­age him from fight­ing.

“But when he won sev­eral am­a­teur cham­pi­onships his mother was fi­nally con­vinced to let him follow his ca­reer,” Zo­lile says.

Zolani and his brother Maka­zole are very close: “I call him Car­los Djedje (after the reg­gae mu­si­cian) and he calls me by my clan name, Ng­w­evu,” Zolani says.

Tengim­fene is grate­ful to But­ter­worth Spargs Su­per Spar su­per­mar­ket for spon­sor­ing Zolani, say­ing the ges­ture helps the boxer to con­cen­trate on his box­ing.

“The rea­son our box­ers flee to Jo­han­nes­burg is be­cause of lack of spon­sor­ship here at home and if com­pa­nies like Spar can help all box­ers from this prov­ince would re­turn home,” Tengim­fene rea­sons.

Pic­ture: MICHAEL PINYANA

BOX­ING BROOD: Brothers Zolani Tete and Maka­zole with par­ents Zo­lile and Nomonde

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