South African Zolani Tete (right) in action against John Reil Casimero at the Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, the UK, November 30 2019. Picture: REUTERS/PETER CZIBORRA
South African Zolani Tete (right) in action against John Reil Casimero at the Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, the UK, November 30 2019. Picture: REUTERS/PETER CZIBORRA

The favoured Zolani Tete of East London was stunned by Filipino John Riel Casimero at the Birmingham Arena in England on Saturday night, leaving his manager dumbfounded.

Entering the fight as a 3-1 on favourite‚ Tete was bundled to the canvas three times in the third round to surrender his World Boxing Organisation (WBO) world bantamweight crown in what has been described as a huge upset by international boxing publications.

After his defeat he was rushed to hospital for observation but was later discharged.

“We do not know what happened‚” said his crestfallen manager Mla Tengimfene. “This is still like a bad dream to us but we congratulate Casimero for the win.”

“The good news is that Zolani is back in his hotel room after he was taken to hospital as a precaution.”

Tete, who had not fought for 13 months, started well boxing behind his vaunted right jab while Casimero offered little other than occasional bursts.

The fight followed the same pattern until the third round when the Filipino lunged in and landed a right hand to the temple that dropped Tete to the canvas.

Tete took the count but even though he managed to make it to his feet‚ he was still badly dazed.

Casimero pounced on him, landing a couple of right hands as Tete covered up on the ropes.

One such punch floored Tete face-first as he attempted to run away from the Filipino onslaught.

Again he beat the count, but the writing was on the wall as the relentless Casimero‚ smelling a quick and easy win‚ charged at him.

After a barrage of blows, many of which did not connect‚ the referee waved the fight over to snap Tete’s 12-bout winning streak and end his reign as a world champion.

The loss was a double-edged sword for Tete as it saw his world unification bout against Naoya Inoue of Japan go up in smoke.

There were concerns that Tete was overlooking Casimero as his pre-fight interviews focused on Inoue instead of the dangerous Casimero, who had won his last four bouts by knockouts.

The Filipino, who lost to Tete’s compatriot Moruti Mthalane‚ had enjoyed a career resurgence going into the fight.

The win marked his third title victory in a third weight division, having reigned as the International Boxing Federation (IBF) junior flyweight and flyweight champion.

Backed by Filipino great Manny Pacquiao, whose Manny Pacquiao Promotions wanted to organise the fight in the Philippines only to lose the purse bids auction to Tete’s English promoter Frank Warren‚ Casimero described the win as the biggest of his career.

“Give me Inoue now‚” the 30-year-old Filipino screamed at ringside after the win.

For Tete it is back to the drawing board, though at 31 time is not on his side, especially as he is prone to injuries.

Saturday's result leaves Mthalane‚ the IBF flyweight titleholder‚ as SA’s only bona fide world champion.