Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Fair Play: Donnie's legend continues

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's July 13 edition)

WHAT more can Donnie Nietes do? This unassuming guy from Negros, who fights out of the ALA boxing stable of Cebu City, just ran through what was supposed to be his biggest challenge to date, Mexican Francisco Rodriguez.

Unlike in his last four fights, Nietes didn’t get a knockout but he did more than enough to earn a unanimous decision win of 119-109, 118-110, and 115-113. The last score, curiously, is a lot closer for comfort.


He hurt his hand midway, when Rodriguez was eating punches left and right, and perhaps that explains the decision win. But Nietes is a fighter who doesn’t need a knockout victory to solidify his status.

His seven-year reign as a champion speaks enough for itself. Though, he’s not as famous as Manny Pacquiao, he doesn’t chase fame and is contented with what he have.

I remember Sir ALA himself recalling that once in a gathering with an ALA boxer who was more famous but wasn’t a world champion, a group of fans ignored him for the other and he let it be.

“Donnie Nietes should be more famous,” my friend and Azkals game commentator Bob Guerrero said on Twitter the other night after Nietes’ latest victory.

Yes, he should be and Pinoy fans should be more appreciative of him. But in the funny world of boxing, the little guys are ignored over those who fight in the 135-pound divisions or up.

But for fans who know, Donnie is unique. He’s done what no other boxer from the Philippines has done—reign as king for seven years and 10 months. He’ll have his eighth anniversary as champion on Sept. 30.

So, what’s next for him?

A unification bout is an option, Michael Aldeguer said a few months ago. The WBC light flyweight champion is Pedro Guevara, who is 26-1-1 with 17KOs, while the IBF champion is Javier Mendoza. The 24-year-old is 24-2-1 with 19KOs and beat Milan Melindo in his last defense. The WBA champion is Japanese Ryoichi Taguchi, 22-2-1 with 9KOs. Donnie unifying the 108-pound division against those champions is a palatable option, but the big question is, are those guys willing to risk their crown against one of history’s best 108-pounders?

At 33, Donnie’s career is on its final swing and though he’d fight anyone his handlers assign him too, I know he’s also eager for the big fights, the career-defining ones.

He’s never had a problem making the 108-pound limit, but he’s also looking at the 112-pound champions—the fearsome and undefeated Roman Gonzales, Juan Francisco Estrada, who defeated Melindo too in 2013 and the undefeated crafty champion from Thailand, Amnat Ruenrong, who wrestled Johnriel Casimero several times to win by unanimous decision in his last fight.

The Nicaraguan Gonzalez is one of the best boxers pound-for-pound, having stopped all but six of his 43 foes and a fight with Donnie could be one of the best in the lower divisions in years.

At 33, Donnie should be spared from fights like last Saturday, when some young punk eager to make a name for himself takes him on.

It should be Donnie’s story and his angle. Whether it’s against the other 108-pound champions or those in the 112-pound divisions, it’s for his handlers to decide.

Donnie’s spot in boxing legend is secure but I’m sure, like me, boxing fans all over the world are asking.

“What more can this little guy achieve?”
(mikelimpag@gmail.com)

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