By Frank Warren
PROBABLY ONE OF the most fascinating fights of the year will play out at the OVO Arena, Wembley on July 2 when two well seasoned, but contrasting, campaigners step into the ring at the famous old venue situated in the towering shadow of Wembley Stadium.
The super bantamweight scene in Britain – also in our own ranks – is literally thriving at the moment, with European champion Jason Cunningham leading the way and being hunted down by young, hungry contenders such as Marc Leach, Liam Davies, Andrew Cain, Chris Bourke, Brad Foster and, potentially, Dennis McCann.
With Jason having looked so assured and composed in the way he dealt with his last challenger, Terry Le Couviour, in April, it was a fine time to throw an old friend into the mix to spice things up even further.
Jason now goes up against South African superstar and former two-weight world champion Zolani Tete at Wembley and I believe we could well have a classic confrontation on our hands.
Doncaster man Jason just really looks the part now. His confidence is high and he believes the time is right to step into world title contention. His career path makes a mockery of the thinking that a handful of defeats automatically takes a fighter towards gatekeeper or simply decent opponent status.
If you don’t get too despondent following a loss and don’t take to heart the inevitable brickbats that come your way in these days of social media, setbacks can be put down to experience, as long as you learn from them.
There won’t be much that Jason hasn’t come up against in his 37 professional fights and probably the biggest conclusion behind his recent success is to make sure he fights at the right weight at the right time.
Of course, you have most likely got to grab an against the odds opportunity to get to this point and in Jason’s case it was the European title shot at three-week’s notice against Gamal Yafai. This is where staying in the gym and keeping ready is a useful habit to have and, again, this probably comes with experience.
It sounds a bit corny, but the upturn in fortunes Jason is enjoying really couldn’t happen to a nicer fella. He is a gentleman, a proper pro and his story should serve as an example and inspiration to other fighters.
He has been doing a bit of work with our young Dennis McCann recently and I can’t think of many better people that Dennis could learn from.
Which all makes Jason fully deserving of such a marquee fight against a genuinely proven champion and great fighter, such as Zolani.
We have worked closely with Zolani now since early 2016 after he came sharply onto our radar with his destructive defeat of Paul Butler the year before. He’d suffered a few ups and downs in his career prior to our link-up but his quality was obvious and he just needed guiding correctly.
Within three fights he was WBO world bantamweight champion and went on a run of wins that included the astounding 11 second defeat of Siboniso Gonya. Remember, much of the 11 seconds was taken up by the count!
Ultimately it was time to start mixing with the likes of Nagoya Inoue so he took his place in the WBSS tournament but, unfortunately, after winning his opening fight he was forced to withdraw due to injury.
We then won a big purse bid to stage his mandatory defence against John Riel Casimero in this country and the Tete Train was temporarily derailed. Casimero caught him in the third round and Zolani just couldn’t recover.
Was part of this down to making the bantamweight limit one time too many? Was he weight drained? We don’t know and, now he is jumping up to super bantam, we will see if the old Tete magic is still there.
I suspect it is because Zolani is such an incredible athlete and operator. He always seemed so huge for the lower weights and many people thought he would be comfortable at featherweight.
What I do know is he will have his work cut out against Jason and we will see an intriguing and outstanding exhibition of boxing from two fine fighting men.
Tickets for High Stakes at OVO Arena, Wembley on Saturday 2 July are on sale here.