Zolani Tete to make second title defense vs. Omar Narvaez


Bantamweight world titleholder Zolani Tete and mandatory challenger Omar Narvaez will square off on Feb. 10 at the Copper Box Arena in London, promoter Frank Warren said Friday.

The sides made a deal last week and avoided a purse bid, and Warren has placed the fight on his first card of 2018.

Tete (26-3, 21 KOs), 29, of South Africa, will be making the second defense of his 118-pound belt, three months after he erased countryman Siboniso Gonya in just 11 seconds at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Tete, a southpaw, knocked Gonya out cold with the first punch of the Nov. 19 fight, a brutal right hook that made for the fastest knockout ever in a world title fight.

Narvaez (47-2-2, 25 KOs), 42, of Argentina, is a former longtime flyweight and junior bantamweight world titleholder now boxing as a bantamweight in the twilight of his career. He has won four fights in a row since yielding his junior bantamweight belt to Japan’s Naoya Inoue in a second-round knockout loss in December 2014.

While Narvaez looms as his next foe, Tete was more interested in talking about facing unified titleholder Ryan Burnett (18-0, 9 KOs), 25, of Belfast, in an effort to unify three of the major belts.

“Where is Ryan Burnett at? I want to unify the bantamweight division and he is standing in my way,” Tete said. “As a world champion it is your duty to fight the best in the world. I am willing to travel anywhere on the planet to unify the bantamweight division. If Burnett wants me to travel to Belfast I will happily do it. If he wants to be considered a top fighter and seriously be considered a unified champion, he should want to test himself against the best.

“His promoter [Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing] is talking about financial legacy. I’ve heard some bad excuses for not making fights in the past but this is the worst. It’s nothing but a blatant duck. They are robbing the public of a brilliant fight. My promoter, Frank Warren, has offered to pay my purse for me to fight Burnett on a card promoted by his team. This means it will be by far Burnett’s biggest payday.

“It is the biggest fight in the division, for the most money. To not fight me when there are no obstacles in the way would be shameful and cowardly. I hope Burnett hears this, as I would never allow the people around me make me look like a coward, and that is what his promoter’s comments make him look like.”

Warren also said the Feb. 10 card will include light heavyweight Anthony Yarde (14-0, 13 KOs), 26, of England; heavyweight Daniel Dubois (6-0, 6 KOs), 20, of England; and 30-year-old British welterweight champion Bradley Skeete (27-1, 12 KOs). Their opponents are all to be determined.

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