Boxing
Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer 70d

Zolani Tete puts belt on line against Siboniso Gonya

Boxing

Zolani Tete will defend his bantamweight world title for the first time when he faces South African countryman Siboniso Gonya on Nov. 18 at the SSE Arena Belfast in Belfast, Northern Ireland, promoter Frank Warren announced Tuesday.

The fight will take place on the undercard of the return of former featherweight and junior featherweight world titleholder Carl Frampton (23-1, 14 KOs), who will take on opponent to be determined in his hometown in his first fight since signing with Warren and his first fight since losing his featherweight belt by majority decision to Leo Santa Cruz in their rematch in January.

Tete (25-3, 20 KOs), a 29-year-old southpaw, won the interim title by near-shutout decision -- 120-107, 119-108 and 119-108 -- against Arthur Villanueva on April 22 but was then elevated to a full titleholder when Marlon Tapales was stripped of the belt for failing to make weight for a title defense scheduled for April 23.

"He is a good fighter and I am looking forward to testing myself against him. He is a fellow South African but there are no friends inside the ring," said Tete, who has also won a world title at junior bantamweight. "I hope he will put up a good fight but I will be heading back to South Africa with my belt around my waist."

Although Gonya is next, Tete also has his eye on a unification fight with fellow titleholder Ryan Burnett, who is from Belfast.

"I'm delighted to be making the first defense of my world title in Belfast," said Tete, who will be fighting in the United Kingdom for the fourth consecutive time. "I'll be looking to make a statement in Ryan Burnett's hometown as I know this is a fight my team tried to make for me but he didn't want to know.

"I believe myself and Burnett would provide fans with a brilliant fight. I know the people of Belfast love their boxing and hopefully this is a fight that can be made when we both come through our next fights. For now all of my focus is on Siboniso Gonya on Nov. 18."

Burnett (17-0, 9 KOs), 25, and Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18 KOs), 33, of Kazakhstan, are scheduled to meet in a world title unification fight, also at SSE Arena Belfast, on Oct. 21.

Gonya (11-1, 5 KOs), 25, who has won five fights in a row, will be fighting outside of South Africa for only the second time and facing the most notable opponent of his career by far.

"I have wanted this fight badly for some time and I am delighted that I finally have the chance to test myself against a fighter of Tete's caliber," Gonya said. "He is a two-weight world champion and one of the most avoided fighters in the world.

"Whilst other fighters have avoided him, I am relishing the opportunity to take his world title from him. The odds will be stacked in his favor but I am a warrior and this is my moment. I believe it is my destiny to win a world title."

There is also another world title fight on the card as junior bantamweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas (27-1-1, 18 KOs), 25, a Manny Pacquiao protégé from the Philippines, will make his third defense against Belfast's Jamie Conlan (19-0, 11 KOs), 30, the older brother of top prospect and two-time Irish Olympian Michael Conlan.

"I always loved fighting on Carl's undercards. The atmosphere is hard to describe and it has got bigger and bigger," Conlan said. "To be involved with a meaningful fight, it's going to be an emotion I'm going to have to control on fight night. It's something I'm looking forward to.

"I didn't get overly excited when I found out this was happening because I've been let down in the past but now that I'm sitting at the table. I've never been as excited. It's a big stage, it's a big atmosphere. It's a bigger audience than I've ever fought in front of. "

Conlan was ringside to watch Ancajas' last defense on July 2, when the southpaw knocked out Teiro Kinoshita in the seventh round on the undercard of Pacquiao's upset loss to Jeff Horn in Brisbane, Australia.

"I got to see the first round and then the final couple of rounds from ringside and Jerwin was very impressive," said Conlan, who was also in Brisbane to watch his brother's bout on the show. "Studying from close up, rather than on TV, you get to hear the thud of a fighter's punches. It can be daunting. For one so small, he's extremely powerful but he's not just a brawler and a banger. He started out nice and relaxed, patient in his approach.

"He's got a good grasp of distance and range and systematically breaks opponents down. Once he gets inside, he's shown a ruthless finishing instinct. He has been on my radar for a wee while now. I'm entering this fight with big self-belief that I can bring home the bacon. There's still a heck of a lot that I'm capable of, that I've not yet shown."

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