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