By: Ste Rowen
It was a night made for the travelling fighters in Ekaterinburg as bantamweight Zolani Tete and cruiserweight, Andrew Tabiti overcame Russian opponents, both in unimpressive decision victories, to progress to their respective WBSS semi-finals.
Zolani Tete, 27-3 (21KOs) heading into tonight, started the fight as we hoped he would, on the front foot looking to impress his power upon Mikhail Aloyan early. The Armenian-born Russian however is no stranger to Tete’s offensive approach thanks to Mikhail’s supreme amateur experience (2 world championship golds and Olympic bronze in 2012).
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
With 20 seconds left of the 1st round, the WBO champion landed a long-left hand and followed it with a short right, forcing Aloyan, 4-0 (0KOs), to stumble to the ground and score an early 10-8 for Zolani. The knockdown setup a sprightly round 2, and although Tete seemed to remain on top, there was clearly a competitive fight to be had. At the beginning of round 4, Aloyan sprung a right hand and landed cleanly onto the chin of the champion, waking up the Russian crowd and shaking away any complacency Tete may have had as the fight headed into the middle rounds.
By the 7th it remained competitive but, Zolani’s jab looked as if it was seeing him through the rounds. Even when Aloyan had a brief, bright spot, the WBO champ’s jab looked as if it was regaining the momentum. At times, it threatened to fall under the category of awkward as neither seemed willing or able to engage on the inside, instead, tying each other up. Both southpaws fell to the canvas a few times as a result, and not because of a punch.
Rounds 9 and 10 continued much the same and in the final minute of the 10th the referee looked as if he took a point from the South African for consistently pushing away. Then just before the final bell for the round, the ring doctor was called over to check on a cut sustained above the right eye of Mikhail. He was allowed to continue into the championship rounds but very little changed in terms of the style of fight the Ekaterinburg audience was viewing. With 50 seconds left of round 11, Aloyan was deducted a point for holding.
They made it to the final bell and, politely applauded by an uninfused crowd, the final scorecards came back as 114-111 (x2) and 114-110 all for Tete, and still the WBO champion said post-fight,
‘‘It was a good fight. Aloyan proved he is one of the best, that’s why he went the full 12 rounds with me…The jab is always working for me. My corner is always telling me to use my legs, because my legs are also my defence so that’s what I’ve been trying to do.’’
And who does he hope to fight in the final four of the WBSS,
‘‘I’m wishing Ryan Burnett can win. I’ve always wanted to fight him. I believe he is going to win in his next fight and I will meet him in the semi-final.’’
Tete, as mentioned, now goes on to the semi-final stage to face either, WBA champion, Ryan Burnett or, Nonito Donaire, who fight on the 3rd November in Glasgow.
Andrew Tabiti vs. Ruslan Fayfer
Getting the second season of the cruiserweights underway, the two unbeaten fighters, Andrew ‘The Beast’ Tabiti, 16-0 (13KOs) and Ruslan Fayfer 23-0 (16KOs) both decided on a tentative start. Fayfer took a more offensive, come-forward approach but both boxer’s proved risk-averse through rounds 1-3.
It was clear which of the two trains out of Mayweather’s boxing gym, but Tabiti’s quick hands weren’t matched with volume. A number of times through the middle rounds, ‘The Beast’ landed a power shot, but struggled to follow it up before being tied up by the Russian or even put off by his own caution. By round 7, and by now as ugly as a fight can get, it was clear Ruslan was struggling too figure out his American foe. Pre-fight, the Russian said he was the more experienced of the two, but the lack of quality in his past opponents was telling.
Andrew’s punch-output had slowed right down by the 8th, Fayfer was forcing the pace of the bout but continued to struggle to land anything of significance, despite finishing round 8 on top. A similar pattern followed right through to the final bell. Fayfer rushed in, Tabiti evaded the attack, but neither gave the fans much to enjoy. With 33 seconds of the 12th, Ruslan was deducted a point for continuously leading with the head, it set a fire in the Russian to go all out but Tabiti was savvy enough to see the round out.
A was a fight so awkward, it was anyone’s to win. But it was ‘The Beast’ who took it, 116-111, 115-112, 114-113 all in favour of the Vegas fighter. Tabiti spoke to Barry Jones post-fight,
‘‘I love Russia, I love coming out here fighting, it was a wonderful experience. The guy was awkward, but he came and brought the fight. He seen I had the speed on him, so he wanted to make it awkward and dirty.’’
‘‘My game plan was to last the beginning of the fight and then later on try and kick it up.’’
And who would he prefer to fight in the semi’s,
‘‘I think Dorticos has the more credible name, so I’d like to fight him.’’
Tabiti now progresses to the semi-finals where he will fight either, defeated semi-finalist of last season’s WBSS, Yunier Dorticos or, Mateusz Masternak, who meet next week in Orlando.
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