A move long overdue

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Ed C. Tolentino

Ed C. Tolentino

Doing the math, Donnie “Ahas” Nietes has been a world champion since 2007, when he won the World Boxing Organization (WBO) minimumweight (105 lbs.) championship. He sat at the minimumweight throne for about four years before collaring a second world title, the WBO light flyweight (108 lbs.) crown, in 2011. Spread in two weight categories, Nietes has been a world titleholder for almost nine years.

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While there is no question that Nietes’ place in Philippine boxing history is already etched in stone, there is one thing that has eluded him all these years: the career-defining super fight. More than a lengthy title reign, a boxing champion’s greatness is measured by his performance against an equally formidable adversary. After 13 years and 43 fights in the punch-for-pay business, Nietes is still looking for that career-defining moment in the ring. At age 34, time is no longer on Nietes’ side and this explains why he is finally ditching his WBO light flyweight crown. Truth be told, the belt has become a liability, a shackle that has been preventing Nietes from pursuing the marquee names in the heavier weight classes.

Nietes has two choices at this point in his career: Stay put as WBO light flyweight king and feast on doughnut-knitted foes or relinquish the belt and seek new challenges in heavier weight classes. In a recent press conference, Nietes did not mince a word in saying that he is finished as a light flyweight and wants fresh meat.

It took some time to sink in, but Nietes is finally set to move up to the flyweight (112 lbs.) division on September 24, when he takes on Mexican Edgar Rosa in a 12-round bout at the Stubhub Center in Carson, California. The heaviest Nietes had weighed is 110 + pounds, when he knocked out Danai Meendaeng in a non-title bout in 2012. He is expected to max out at 112 for the Sosa fight to get a real feel of the flyweight class.

There are two formidable names waiting for Nietes in the 112-pound division: WBO-WBA champion Juan Francisco Estrada (33-2, 24 knockouts) and WBC champ Roman Gonzalez (45-0, 38 knockouts). Estrada has been the WBO-WBA flyweight champ since 2013, when he outgunned Brian Viloria in 12 rounds. The 26-year-old Estrada is a superb ring tactician who gave Gonzalez a tough fight before losing on points in 2012. Gonzalez, on the other hand, just happens to be recognized as the best “pound-for-pound” fighter in boxing today. Gonzalez packs power in both hands and is a three-division (minimum weight, light flyweight and flyweight) titlist.

Nietes was supposed to jump straight into a showdown with Estrada but the Mexican was ordered by the WBA to make a mandatory title defense against Japanese Kasuto Ioka within the year. Instead of waiting for the result of Estrada-Ioka fight, Nietes is taking the time available to have a tune-up fight against Sosa.

The 37-year-old Sosa is a former WBC light flyweight champion who was knocked out by Gonzalez in 2015 in a bid for the WBC flyweight championship. Sosa did not return to the ring until February this year, when he decisioned journeyman Orlando Guerrero in a six-round bout. Sosa had seen better days and Nietes is a lock to dispatch the Mexican in a wink of an eye.

The plan calls for Nietes to challenge the winner of the Estrada-Ioka fight next year. If Nietes gets past this hurdle, he will likely go after Gonzalez, that is if the Nicaraguan is still available at flyweight. As of this writing, Gonzalez is booked to move up to super flyweight (115 lbs.) on September 10 to face WBC champion Carlos Cuadras (35-0, 27 knockouts) of Mexico. If Gonzalez beats Cuadras for his 4th division title, Nietes may have no choice but to challenge the Nicaraguan at 115 lbs.

A showdown with Gonzalez is the super fight Nietes longs for. The fighters have been embroiled in a wild goose chase for some time now, with Gonzalez claiming some two years ago that Nietes turned down a proposed showdown. It may take some time to happen, but the fight with Gonzalez is the one that will put Nietes in the consciousness of international fight fans.

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For comments, the writer can be reached at atty_eduardo@yahoo.com.

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