The last time the country had a world boxing champion who sat on the throne for more than seven years, this writer was still a year away from punching his way out of his mother’s womb.
From March 1960 until June 1967, a period of 7 years and 3 months, Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde proudly held the world super featherweight (130 pounds) championship. After Elorde, the Filipino fighter who came close to matching the extensive title reign was Luisito Espinosa, who held the World Boxing Council (WBC) featherweight (126 pounds) title from 1995 until 1999.
As can be deduced, Elorde’s all-time record has stood unchallenged for the last 47 years. This Saturday, however, Elorde’s hallowed mark figures to be seriously threatened by reigning World Boxing Organization (WBO) light flyweight (108 pounds) champion Donnie “Ahas” Nietes. Nietes will defend the WBO hardware against Mexican Carlos “El Chapito” Velarde at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino and if the Filipino prevails, he will be extending his title reign to 7 years and roughly 2 months. As Nietes does not figure to fight immediately after Velarde, it is a cinch that he will surpass Elorde’s mark by the time he returns to the ring.
Then again, clarifications will have to be made as Nietes nears Elorde’s mark. Unlike Elorde, Nietes’ title reign is split into two weight classes. He first won the WBO minimumweight (105 pounds) crown in September 2007 and then added the WBO light flyweight belt to his collection in October 2011. In stark contrast, Elorde’s title reign was confined exclusively to the super featherweight class, although he did make two attempts to win the world lightweight crown against Carlos Ortiz and lost both fights. In terms of the longest reign by a Filipino world champion in a single weight division, Elorde’s record will continue to stand. Nietes will be setting a new all-time record for the longest uninterrupted reign of a Filipino world champion, regardless of the number of weight classes involved.
Nietes, 33-1 with 19 knockouts, is coming off a career-defining nine-round demolition of Mexican Moises Fuentes in May. The 32-year-old native of Murcia, Negros Occidental is the heavy favorite to prevail over the younger but relatively inexperienced Velarde, who totes a record of 26-3 with 14 knockouts.
A native of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, the 24-year-old Velarde has been a pro since July 2007 and is currently ranked No. 5 by the WBO. Two of the three losses of Velarde have come by knockout. He was repulsed in five rounds by Jesus Silvestre in 2009 and in five rounds by WBA minimumweight champ Ryo Miyazaki in May 2013. While Velarde has won 2 of his last 3 fights, his last two opponents had a combined win-loss record of 47-29.
Moreover, Velarde is a natural minimumweight who is moving up to light flyweight, a division where Nietes has been a fixture for the last 3 years. The Mexican’s fighting style also appears to be tailor-made for a boxer/counterpuncher like Nietes. Velarde has a tendency to recklessly lunge in and leave himself open to counter attacks. Nietes himself noted this defensive lapse and has promised to patiently wait for the opening Velarde is expected to provide.
Nietes’ only setback is a close split-decision loss to Indonesian Anky Angkota in September 2004, a fight he agreed to take despite the fact that Angkota came in six pounds overweight. Nietes has been fighting under the illustrious shadows of Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr. and is finally being given the opportunity to have the spotlight all for himself.
Good things come for those who wait. In the case of Nietes, the wait took over 7 years, but he is now more than ready to claim his just rewards.
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