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Donnie Nietes retains championship with UD over Francisco Rodriguez

Fighters Network
Photo by Ryan Songalia

Photo by Ryan Songalia

CEBU CITY, Philippines – RING and WBO junior flyweight champion Donnie Nietes retained his titles with a clear-cut unanimous decision win over mandatory challenger Francisco Rodriguez Jr. at Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City, Philippines, on Saturday.

Nietes (36-1-4, 21 knockouts) of Murcia, Philippines, won by the judges’ scores of 115-113, 119-109 and 118-110 over Rodriguez (17-3-1, 11 KOs) of Monterrey, Mexico.

Nietes, though 11 years older than his opponent at 33, appeared fresh throughout the fight, moving and jabbing effortlessly in the seventh defense of his championship.

Nietes’ biggest round was the sixth, when he rocked Rodriguez with uppercuts and left hooks. It was in that round that Nietes believes he broke his right hand after landing a right cross to the top of Rodriguez’s head.

“My hand really hurt and I couldn’t throw it very hard anymore after,” said Nietes.

By the 12th round, both Nietes and Rodriguez were bleeding, with Nietes’ right eye nicked from an accidental elbow and Rodriguez’s nose pouring from the accurate jabs of Nietes.

Rodriguez’s relentless aggression found some success in the early rounds, with Nietes admitting that a body shot in round 3 hurt him. Nietes’ promoter, Michael Aldeguer of ALA Promotions, says he will have the hand x-rayed in Cebu on Sunday and will likely seek further treatment in Manila.

Aldeguer says the injury and the cut makes a planned November return for Nietes questionable. Aldeguer adds that he isn’t sure whether to move Nietes up to 112 pounds for his next fight, despite the remaining challenges at 108 pounds.

Photo by Ryan Songalia

Photo by Ryan Songalia

“It’s never easy to put unification bouts,” Aldeguer says of matching Nietes with other titleholders at 108 pounds. “Nobody wants to fight nobody.”

A move to 112 would open up matchups with RING flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez (43-0, 37 KOs) of Nicaragua and WBA/WBO flyweight titleholder Juan Francisco Estrada (32-2, 23 KOs) of Mexico.

Villamor says a matchup with Estrada would be an “easy fight.”

Rodriguez, who was defeated in seven rounds by Gonzalez in 2013, says that he thinks Nietes would suffer the same fate.

Rodriguez, who skipped the post-fight press conference and wore sunglasses afterwards to conceal his swelling, says he feels he deserved the decision over Nietes, arguing that Nietes was holding and running excessively.

Nietes has reigned for nearly 8 years since winning his first title at 105 pounds in 2007, making him the longest continuously reigning titleholder in Philippine boxing history.

Nietes remains the only Filipino boxer with a world championship, after Manny Pacquiao lost his WBO welterweight title to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in May, and both Nonito Donaire and Johnriel Casimero lost their respective featherweight and junior flyweight belts in 2014.

Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.