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Donaire vs. Tete & Prograis vs. Relikh announced for 4/27

Nonito Donaire

By Jeff Aranow: The World Boxing Super Series announced the long awaited semi-final doubleheader on Sunday with WBA light welterweight champion Kiryl Relikh defending against Regis Prograis, and WBA Super World bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire battling it out against WBO champion Zolani Tete on April 27 at a venue still to be determined. The venue will be taking place in the U.S.

It’s good news that the WBSS organizers have finally revealed a date for these semifinal matches, as many boxing fans have been concerned about whether the tournament will continue or not. There had been talk of IBF light welterweight champion Ivan Baranchyk (19-0, 12 KOs) potentially pulling out of the WBSS tournament. It doesn’t appear that he will be though, but it’s good that the date has been set for these fights. Baranchyk, 26, will be facing WBC Silver 140 lb champion Josh Taylor (14-0, 12 KOs) in the semifinal of the WBSS tournament on May 18 at The SSE Hydro, in Glasgow, Scotland. The winner of the Baranchyk vs. Taylor fight will be facing the winner of the Prograis vs. Relikh contest.

Regis Prograis vs. Kiryl Relikh

For Prograis (23-0, 19 KOs), he went into the tournament with high hopes of furthering his career by winning the IBF and WBA 140 lb titles, and then moving on to take on WBC champion Jose Ramirez and WBO champion Maurice Hooker. Prograis would likely would have been a world champion by now had he not entered the WBSS tournament and chewed up seven month. Things will workout for Prograis if the WBSS doesn’t crumble to pieces, but it’s got to be stressful for him wondering whether it’ll he’ll see the end of it. Prograis defeated former WBO lightweight champion Terry Flanagan by a 12 round unanimous decision last October in his quarterfinal fight in the WBSS tournament in New Orleans. Prograis won that fight by the scores 117-110, 118-109 and 119-108.

“It’s the best fighting the best. That’s what boxing should be about,” Prograis said. “I know Relikh is a tough and strong fighter and I never look over an opponent but I have no doubt in my mind that I will win.”

Relikh (23-2, 19 KOs) is a big puncher who earned his way to the WBSS semifinal against Prograis after beating former IBF champion Eduard Troyanovsky by a close 12 round unanimous decision last October. Relikh struggled to beat the 38-year-old Troyanovsky by a hard fought decision. This is the same Troyanaovski that was knocked out by Julius Indongo in the first round in December 2016.

Nonito Donaire vs. Zolani Tete

This will be an interesting fight between WBA Super World bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire (39-5, 25 KOs), who will be facing a big test in WBO champion Zolani Tete (28-3, 21 KOs). Donaire, 36, was given up on by a lot of boxing fans following his losses to Jessie Magdaleno at super bantamweight and Carl Frampton at featherweight. However, Donaire looked like a different person in moving back down to bantamweight in his last fight in stopping WBA Super World bantamweight champion Ryan Burnett in the fourth round on November 3 in his home country on November 3 in Glasgow, Scotland. Donaire unloaded on Burnett with his high power artillery in the third and fourth round to get a stoppage on a injury. Burnett, 27, suffered a freak back injury while being pressured by Donaire. While some boxing fans attribute Donaire’s win due to the back injury that Burnett suffered in the fight, he likely would have lost the fight anyway because he was getting hit hard by Donaire from the first round, and he didn’t have the power or the chin to stay in there for long while he was getting pummeled.

Donaire vs. Tete is a 50-50 fight that literally could go either way. If Donaire comes out slugging in the opening round like he was against Burnett, we could see a fast knockout. Tete is a pure slugger by heart, and he would likely willingly trade with Donaire. All it takes is one big shot from Donaire, and he could have Tete badly hurt and ready to be stopped.

“WBSS has set up such a great opportunity for me to achieve what I’ve always wanted and that’s to be Undisputed Champion,” said Donaire. “Since the last fight, I took just a couple weeks off and came right back to the gym. Tete is a formidable opponent.”

In the past, Donaire wanted to be a unified champion, but he never focused on doing it at bantamweight. If Donaire had wanted to become the unified champion at 118, he likely would have done it no problem. In the two years that Donaire fought at bantamweight in 2010 and 2011, he looked invincible in defeating Omar Andres Narvaez, Volodymyr Sydorenko and Fernando Montiel. Rather than sticking it out at bantamweight and continuing to dominate, Donaire moved up to super bantamweight in February 2012 and defeated Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. by a 12 round split decision to win the vacant WBO title. That was hardly an easy fight for Donaire, and it should have been a big hint that he didn’t belong at 122. Instead, Donaire stayed at super bantamweight and fought well until he ran into Rigondeaux in 2013, and ended up losing to him by a 12 round decision.

Donaire was considered one of the best fighters in the sport of boxing in 2012. Things have gone a little downhill since then for Donaire with him losing to Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nicholas Walters, Jessie Magdaleno and Carl Frampton.

WBO 118 lb champion Tete, 30, is coming off of a harder than expected 12 round unanimous decision win over Mikhail Aloyan last October in a grueling fight. Tete ended up winning the fight by the scores 114-111, 115-110 and 114-111. Before that fight, Tete was considered as a devastating knockout artist and someone that almost unbeatable, but not anymore. Tete is now being seen as someone that can be beat, and he might lose to Donaire if the Filipino star puts hands on him like he was doing against his last opponent Burnett. Donaire is a much different fighter at bantamweight than he is hen he fighting at 122 and 126. He’s a much better fighter at bantamweight. His power goes a lot further in this weight class. Tete is still largely untested and unproven against the talented fighters. Tete earned his reputation as being a great fighter with wins over these guys:

– Paul Butler

– Omar Andres Narvaez

– Victor Ruiz

– Arthur Villanueva

– Siboniso Gonya

Those aren’t great fighters, so it could be that the boxing fans that rated Tete have given him too much credit for the wins that he’s compiled during his career. It wouldn’t be surprising if Donaire does a number on Tete on April 27 in exposing him and showing that he’ not the fighter that the boxing public thought he was. That’s what’s good about the World Boxing Super Series tournament. The fans can see who the top guy is in the bantamweight and light welterweight divisions.

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