Chasing Gonzalez

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Ed C. Tolentino

Ed C. Tolentino

The feeling is comparable to what a treasure hunter feels when he opens the chest and sees nothing much in it.

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Donnie ‘Ahas’ Nietes gave up his World Boxing Organization (WBO) light flyweight (108 lbs.) title to move up to flyweight (112 lbs.) and go after the marquee names in the division. Nietes posted a successful debut at flyweight, outclassing former world champion Edgar Sosa of Mexico in 12 rounds. But when the rosin of battle settled, Nietes did not sound that enthusiastic. There was even a tinge of lament when he told reporters, “Yung boxer na gusto ko makalaban, umakyat sa junior bantamweight.”

Nietes is referring to Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez, the undefeated Nicaraguan (46-0, 38 knockouts) who is recognized by many as the best pound-for-pound champion in boxing today. Nietes has been chasing Gonzalez for some time now, ardently believing that he has the style to beat the hard-punching Nicaraguan. As if to add fuel to the burning house, Gonzalez told the media last year that his camp had wanted to fight Nietes during his light flyweight days (2011-2012) but the Filipino turned down his overtures.

Gonzalez is actually one of two fighters in the flyweight division who are supposed to give Nietes the big-money match he covets, the other being former WBO and WBA (World Boxing Association) flyweight king Juan Francisco Estrada (33-2, 24 knockouts) of Mexico. As of this writing, however, both Gonzalez and Estrada have decided to move up in weight, particularly to the junior bantamweight (also known as super flyweight) or 115-pound ranks.

Gonzalez’s ascension to the junior bantamweight division coincided with Nietes’ flyweight debut, and it was a successful one as he defeated Mexican Carlos Cuadras for the World Boxing Council (WBC) junior bantamweight crown. Gonzalez is still listed as WBC flyweight champ and is currently pondering on which belt to keep. Nietes’ camp can only hope that Gonzalez will return to flyweight, especially after the Nicaraguan looked vulnerable against Cuadras. But insiders say Gonzalez is staying at junior bantamweight after Estrada recently gave up the WBO/WBA flyweight belts to move up to 115-pounds. Gonzalez defeated Estrada on points in their first meeting in 2012 and Estrada has since been aching for a return match. Gonzalez is however demanding a million-dollar purse to make the fight happen. If money becomes an issue, then there is still a flicker of hope for Nietes.

As things stand, Nietes (39-1, 22 knockouts) is trying to see what is left salvaging in the flyweight division. The Filipino is currently ranked No. 1 in the flyweight division by the WBO and with the title now vacant, he could end up fighting for it opposite the No.2 contender, former Olympian Zou Shimming of China.

The heavily-hyped but under performing Shimming (8-1, 2 knockouts) is scheduled to fight Prasitsak Papoem of Thai­land on November 5, in the under­card of the Manny Pacquiao-Jessie Vargas WBO welterweight clash. Nietes may end up fighting the winner of Shimming-Papoem for the WBO flyweight strap.

The clock is ticking for the 34-year-old Nietes. He is a favorite to win a third world boxing title, most likely the WBO flyweight plum, but what really motivates him now is the dream match with Gonzalez. If Gonzalez stays at junior bantamweight, Nietes’ stay in the flyweight class may be short-lived and a move up to 115-pounds may follow. For Nietes, it is all about chasing his ultimate dream; chasing Gonzalez.

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

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