Philippine professional boxing is facing an impending power crisis and extending special powers to President Noynoy Aquino will not address the matter.
Eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao is already leaning on archiving the gloves in 2016 to pursue other endeavors. Truth be told, Pacquiao, who has not registered a knockout win in the last five years, is already immersed in several extra-curricular activities today, leading many to question his dedication to the gloved sport.
Nonito Donaire Jr., who was supposed to follow in Pacquiao’s footsteps, lost his legs and was knocked out recently in six rounds by Nicholas Walters for the World Boxing Association (WBA) featherweight plum. Even before the Walters fight, the 31-year-old Donaire has shown signs of slippage, barely a year after he was crowned Fighter of the Year in 2012.
Former light flyweight and flyweight kingpin Brian Viloria is also on the comeback trail after being dethroned by Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico last year. Like Donaire and Pacquiao, the 33-year-old Viloria is also fighting on borrowed time.
World Boxing Organization (WBO) light flyweight titlist Donnie “Ahas” Nietes has thus far emerged as the only consistent Filipino champion. It’s hard to believe that Nietes has reigned uninterrupted as champion since September 2007, a period of 7 years and 1 month. All these years Nietes has been toiling under the shadows of Pacquiao and Donaire and this explains why his lengthy reign has gone unnoticed. It also doesn’t help that Nietes campaigns in a lower weight class and has been through stretches of inactivity.
Nietes is booked to defend the WBO light flyweight title (108 pounds) on November 15 against Mexican Carlos “El Chapo” Velarde. If Nietes wins, and he is heavily-favored to prevail, he will come tantalizingly close to breaking the all-time record for the longest title reign in Philippine boxing held by Gabriel “Flash” Elorde. Elorde reigned as world super featherweight (130 pounds) champion from March 1960 until June 1967, a period of 7 years and 3 months.
More than breaking Elorde’s record, Nietes needs to step up in weight and take on more high-caliber adversaries if he is to burst into the consciousness of fight fans. He appears to be treading this path, as he notched early this year the biggest win of his career against Mexican Moises Fuentes. Nietes, 33-1 with 19 knockouts, is contemplating on moving up in weight to add a third division crown.
It is however worth stressing that Nietes is already in his dog years at age 32 and it may only be a matter of time before he also calls it day. Make no mistake, there has been a steady infusion of young blood in the sport, what with the noticeable rise in boxing promotions following the sport’s boom, but to this day the country is still on the lookout for its next mega star. A short list of candidates has cropped up, one that counts the likes of undefeated junior featherweights (122 pounds) Genesis “Azukal” Servania and “Prince” Albert Pagara, super flyweight (115 pounds) “King” Arthur Villanueva and flyweight (112 pounds) Milan Melindo. Counterpuncher Servania is inching closer at a shot at the WBO jr. featherweight crown while the 19-year-old Pagara has been meriting attention with his explosive punching power. Both men, however, remain untested. Servania needed 12 rounds to stop Venezuelan Alexander Munoz, a former world champ who had been plucked from retirement. Pagara has amassed 21 wins (15 by knockouts) but will only get his first test on November 15, when he takes on Mexican Raul Hirales.
The careers of Pacquiao and Donaire are winding down and the hush puppies of the sport will have to start taking some risks if they are bent on filling the huge void the two biggest stars of the game will leave once they officially walk away.
At the moment, the clock is ticking and the scenario does not look good.
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