By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
FILIPINO BOXING world champion Donnie “Ahas” Nietes ended 2018 on very a high note by winning another division title that thrust him to an elite group of fighters in history.
Getting the better of Japanese star fighter Kazuto Ioka in their New Year’s Eve fight for the World Boxing Organization Super Flyweight World Championship by split decision at the Wynn Palace Cotai in Macau, China, Negros Occidental native Nietes joined a select group of fighters who have won world titles in at least four divisions, which include compatriots Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire.
But it did not come easy for the 36-year-old Nietes who had to dig deep to outlast a gallant stand by Mr. Ioka, who was also looking for a fourth division world title with a win.
For 12 competitive rounds the two champion fighters slugged it out and had their moments of brilliance.
In the end though, the score cards would go Mr. Nietes’s way, 118-110, 112-116, 116-112, to add the World Boxing Organization’s 115-pound title to his minimumweight, light flyweight and flyweight belts.
The win padded the professional record of Mr. Nietes to 42-1-5 and extended a winning streak that has lasted for more than a decade now.
While Mr. Nietes’s latest title conquest was not as dominant as those of the others in the Filipino champion’s illustrious career, still for one local combat sports analyst the win was impressive considering how the fight went and that a fourth division title was but fitting for a fighter with the packs the kind of caliber of Mr. Nietes.
“It’s acceptable to have that kind of verdict because it was a competitive fight, which I would describe as a tactical, toe-to-toe battle. Donnie Nietes controlled the fight early on, scoring big with his right uppercut-right hook combo every time he found an opening. Although Ioka came up with some power shots of his own, he had trouble defending himself from Nietes’ well-timed overhand rights,” said Nissi Icasiano when asked by BusinessWorld for his thoughts post-fight.
“Ioka made it interesting in the fifth round, forcing Nietes to come forward. The Japanese’s tactic paid off as Nietes began falling short with his counters while Ioka took advantage of his speed edge and landed to the body. [But] Knowing that it’s a now-or-never situation, Nietes worked hard to get his rhythm and range back in the championship rounds… A split decision doesn’t leave a bad taste, but the only thing that I find ridiculous is the 118-110 score on the scorecard,” the analyst added.
Making his mark in the 115-pound division, Mr. Icasiano sees Mr. Nietes being busy with much talent to tackle.
The analyst, however, said the Filipino champion must savor his latest achievement and bask in the fruits of his hard work in training and in the ring first.
“The 115-pound division is a shark tank. There is no shortage of talent. But before we think of what’s next for Donnie Nietes, let him celebrate and savor the moment. [Year] 2018 has been an amazing year for Nietes. He deserves every bit of it,” Mr. Icasiano said.
“It’s fitting for an outstanding pugilist like Donnie Nietes to end the year as a four-division world champion and a seat in the pound-for-pound rankings,” he added.
Apart from Messrs. Pacquiao and Donaire, Mr. Nietes joined the likes of boxing legends Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, Erik Morales, Tommy Hearns, and Sugar Ray Leonard as four-division world champions.