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Donnie Nietes mulls move to flyweight, Roman Gonzalez challenge

03
Dec
Photo by Anson Wainwright

Photo by Anson Wainwright

CEBU CITY, Philippines – To move up, or not to move up? That’s the question that Donnie Nietes and his team are faced with as THE RING magazine junior flyweight champion approaches his 13th year in the sport.

On one hand, Nietes has command of the division at 108 pounds with little difficult making weight due to his continued discipline at age 33.

After years of being overshadowed by compatriots Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire Jr. and Brian Viloria, Nietes is enjoying the spotlight all to himself as the Philippines’ only current world champion.

But four pounds north lies prestige, money and history. There is also risk. The sport’s number one pound-for-pound fighter Roman Gonzalez reigns as the champion at flyweight and would present an opportunity for Nietes to win the fame and recognition that has mostly eluded him.

For Nietes, who once swept the floors of the ALA Gym before becoming its first champion, the answer is a resounding yes.

“If he accepts to fight me, I will like to fight him,” Nietes (37-1-4, 21 knockouts) told RingTV.com. “I know he’s a good boxer and a great fighter so I want to fight Roman Gonzalez.

“I see the style of Roman Gonzalez and think I can beat him.”

Gonzalez vs Nietes would be one of the biggest little fights that could be made in the flyweight division, a meeting of two lineal champions.

Promoter Michael Aldeguer of ALA Boxing says he would also like that fight to happen, but his approach to the risk is more calculating.

“He wants the fight with ‘Chocolatito’ but we’ve always had to question, is he ready for 112?,” Aldeguer says. “That’s been the nagging question for the last two years.”

The 28-year-old Gonzalez (44-0, 38 KOs) looked sensational in stopping Viloria in nine rounds in October, while Nietes made the eighth defense of his WBO title that same night with a clinical decision win over Juan Alejo in his U.S. debut.

Aldeguer acknowledges that Nietes has essentially run out of opponents from the WBO, which had approved two fighters Nietes has already beaten – Moises Fuentes and Francisco Rodriguez Jr. of Mexico – for an elimination bout.

Aldeguer says he was taken aback by the news but says they would honor their mandatories as set forth by the sanctioning body.

“It’s up to my manager. To me, if we fight again, no problem,” Nietes chimed in.

For now, Nietes’ schedule is spoken for for the next two fights.

Nietes is due for a mandatory in April, which Aldeguer says will likely take place in ALA Boxing’s backyard of Cebu City, before considering a non-title fight at flyweight in Nietes’ home province of Negros Occidental in July to test the waters at 112.

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

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