MANILA, Philippines – Arthur Villanueva is just 28 years old, but already he is looking at the path towards a world title as his “last chance.”
The Bago City native will try to earn a second shot at a world title on April 8 when he faces former champion Zolani Tete at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. The winner will be declared the mandatory challenger for WBO bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales, also of the Philippines.
Tete is no minor roadblock. The southpaw from South Africa, Tete (24-3, 20 knockouts) is a former IBF junior bantamweight titleholder who vacated his belt and moved up in weight.
Villanueva’s promoter Michael Aldeguer of ALA Promotions says Tete is a “complete fighter,” but Villanueva believes his fighting spirit can earn him the win on the road. (READ: For Arthur Villanueva, boxing is a chess match)
“Maybe he’s strong but my will to win this fight, he cannot match it,” said Villanueva (30-1, 16 KOs).
Tete, who is promoted by British-based Frank Warren, will have a functional home court advantage on the undercard of the WBO lightweight title fight between champion Terry Flanagan and Petr Petrov, plus the pro debut of two-time women’s Olympic champion Nicola Adams.
Villanueva has won 3 straight since his technical decision loss to McJoe Arroyo for the vacant IBF junior bantamweight title in 2015. One of those outings include the bizarre fight with Juan Jimenez in Bacolod where the Mexican knocked him down in the second round before Villanueva knocked him cold with a headbutt.
Villanueva cleared up matters in a rematch last September in California, knocking Jimenez out in highlight fashion in two rounds.
“I learned a lot in [the Arroyo fight],” said Villanueva. “Now I’m confident that I can win this fight. For me this is the last chance to become a world champion. I won’t let this be wasted.”
Should Villanueva get through Tete, it’d set up just the third Filipino vs Filipino world title fight in history, following the Pancho Villa vs Clever Sencio flyweight championship fight in 1925 at Wallace Field in Manila, and the 1938 bout between Little Dado and Small Montana for the California version of the world flyweight title.
Melindo vs Yaegashi moved to May
Villanueva’s stablemate, Milan Melindo, will get his third shot at a world title in May against IBF junior flyweight champ Akira Yaegashi in Tokyo, Japan, said Aldeguer. Aldeguer said there was no date yet for the fight but he expects to hear from the Japanese promoter Hideyuki Ohashi next week after they finalize a television deal.
Melindo (35-2, 12 KOs) defeated Thailand’s Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr last November to become the interim titleholder, guaranteeing him a shot at Yaegashi (25-5, 13 KOs), who has won world titles in 3 different divisions. – Rappler.com
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RyanSongalia.
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