By Mesuli Zifo
YET another high profile boxer has sidestepped fiery WBO bantamweight champion Zolani Tete.
This time it is Japanese star Naoya Inoue who has decided to seek a title in another direction rather than challenge Tete even though he had intimated that he will do so beforehand.
Inoue announced that he would instead move up a division to pursue his third world divisional title by going after Jamie McDonnell's WBA regular belt in a bout scheduled for May 25 in Japan.
This is a big change of heart from his earlier undertaking that he would focus on Tete's WBO belt to continue his association with the sanctioning body whose crown he held in the junior bantamweight division.
After dispatching over-matched Frenchman Yoann Boyeaux this past December, Inoue said he would be targeting Tete, adding the South African southpaw has been on his radar for a while now.
Tete won the IBF junior bantamweight belt beating another Japanese Teiru Konoshita in 2014. marking the first time seeds of a potential clash with Inoue were sowed.
After vacating the IBF trinket, Tete moved up to the bantamweight to claim the WBO for which he will make the second defence against one of Inoue's previous victims Omar Narvaez at SSE Arena in Belfast on April 21.
He had hoped that after getting the mandatory defence against the Argentinean veteran out of the way he would accommodate Inoue.
“But we were surprised when Inoue announced that he is going after McDonnell instead,” said the boxer's manager Mla Tengimfene.
While the clash against Inoue would have garnered interest with the camps of the two boxers having already started negotiations, boxing fans will have to wait a little longer to see it.
Tete says he hopes Inoue will not go back on his word on his wishes to duke it out with him in the ring.
“I just hope that Inoue is taking a strategic fight here and he will still be opened for us to fight,” he said.
But with him being avoided like plaque by other champions in the division, Tete is not holding his breath.
He has already seen fights against Zhanat Zhakiyanov fizzle out. The latest to run for dear life at Tete's mention is Ryan Burnett who has just vacated the IBF belt to remain with the WBA title.
Tete will make his second trip to Belfast in his efforts to lure Burnett into the ring.
In his first bout at SSE Arena last November, he broke a world record by registering the quickest knockout in a world championship fight when knocking out compatriot Siboniso Gonya in 11 seconds.
Not only did Burnett refuse to bite but he did not even bother to attend the fight held right in his doorsteps.
“I am going back there to fight in Burnett's backyard until he succumbs to public demand,” Tete said.
Tete has just reunited with his long time chief trainer Loyiso Mtyha who was absent in the historic win over Gonya.