Nietes wants big fights after Nantapech, including Ioka, Gonzalez
CEBU CITY, Philippines – There was a time when the snake he carried to the ring on his shoulders was better known than he was. Now Donnie Nietes, a champion already at 105 and 108 pounds, will try to join some exclusive company when he faces Komgrich Nantapech for the vacant IBF flyweight title this Saturday.
A win would mean that Nietes will join Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire as the only Philippine-born fighters to win world titles in at least three divisions.
“If I ever I do win my third division, I’m happy for that. I would be able to give more inspiration to younger boxers,” said Nietes (39-1-4, 22 knockouts), whose fight will headline Pinoy Pride 40 at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City, Philippines.
Nantapech, who is seven years younger at 27, has fought twice in the Philippines, being stopped in two rounds by Nietes’ ALA Promotions stablemate Albert Pagara, and losing a decision to Froilan Saludar. Nantapech (22-3, 15 KOs) of Bangkok, Thailand, has won his last 15 fights but has not been fighting anyone of Nietes’ caliber.
“I don’t care what people say [about] him, but as far as I’m concerned, I just need to focus on our fight,” said Nietes of Murcia, Negros Occidental, Philippines.
“In my opinion, I can really handle him. It’s possible for me to knock him out, but we’re not looking for that [knockout]. For me, I will just do my best to give him a good fight.”
Nietes still entertained musings about the rest of the 112-pound division, how he had wanted to fight WBO flyweight titleholder Zou Shiming, for whom he was the mandatory challenger, before his promoter accepted the fight for the IBF title that Johnriel Casimero had vacated to move up in weight.
“I really wanted to fight Zou Shiming. The problem is, there wasn’t enough negotiation between my manager and him,” said Nietes. “But I really wanted to fight Zou Shiming, and also the other champions in flyweight, WBC, WBA.” When asked about who got the better of the action when he sparred Zou at the Wild Card Gym, Nietes said “me, of course.”
Juan Hernandez (34-2, 25 KOs), who holds the WBC title, will face Japanese prospect Daigo Higa on May 20. The WBA title is held by Japan’s Kazuto Ioka, a three-division champion already and the No. 1-rated fighter by THE RING at 112 pounds.
“Ioka is a really good boxer — he’s good to fight also. I’m challenging him to fight me next time,” said Nietes.
Nietes had hoped to be fighting for his third title against one of the bigger names who have since moved up to 115 pounds — Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada. Nietes’ promoter, Michael Aldeguer, president of ALA Promotions, said he previously had positive discussions with HBO’s Peter Nelson about broadcasting a fight with Gonzalez, and that the intended opponent for Nietes’ last fight last September at StubHub Center was Estrada after he had agreed with Zanfer Promotions to make that fight. Nietes ended up fighting Edgar Sosa instead, winning a unanimous decision.
“The next thing we found out, they’re moving up in weight,” says Aldeguer.
About making a fight with Zou as a unification, Aldeguer thinks it isn’t likely.
“Zou Shiming is a big fight too … but in terms of making it happen, I’m not sure if it can be done with the plans that they have and Donnie fighting for the IBF,” says Aldeguer.
“China has bigger plans for boxing. We’ll try to sit down with [Zou’s team], but right now we’ll try to hopefully work with HBO and try to work and see if we can make the bigger fights with Roman Gonzalez.”
Aldeguer thinks Nietes, already a 14-year pro, could have another four or five years left in the sport due to his attitude, which he said includes staying in shape between fights and questioning his trainers to learn more about his opponents and craft.
“I bike far, sometimes for 20 kilometers. Sometimes I bike with my companions in Cebu, sometimes I bike by myself. I also do mountain biking for almost 4 hours, 5 hours,” says Nietes of how he manages to start training camp near weight.
ALA pumps the brakes on Magsayo
Saturday’s card will also feature unbeaten featherweight Mark “Magnifico” Magsayo (15-0, 11 KOs) facing Tanzania’s Issa Nampepeche (24-7-4, 11 KOs). The fight will be scheduled for 10 rounds, a downgrade from the 12-rounders Magsayo fought in his last two outings. In addition to the rounds, Magsayo will also be taking a downgrade in competition from his breakout opponent, Chris Avalos, whom he stopped in an all-out war last April on the undercard of Donaire-Zsolt Bedak.
“I think it’s going to be easy fight for me but I can’t be over-confident,” says the 21-year-old Magsayo from Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines.
Aldeguer says the WBO No. 6-rated featherweight is “still a work in the progress. He has all the potential, he has the right attitude if it doesn’t go to his head. I know that he’ll be a great fighter but there’s no point in rushing him.”
Aldeguer adds that while the Avalos fight, in which Magsayo was down and nearly out in Round 3, was “one hell of a fight,” he also “had a lot of chinks in his armor,” referring to Magsayo’s defensive lapses.
He also says that he felt Magsayo’s last fight, a unanimous decision over Mexico’s Ramiro Robles in September, was a “so-so performance” but said he and Jeo Santisima (12-2, 11 KOs), the 20-year-old junior featherweight who will face Indonesian journeyman Master Suro in a 10-rounder on the card, are in the running to headline the Pinoy Pride 41 card on July 8 in Cebu City.
“If Mark does well this Saturday and another young kid we’re very excited about, Jeo Santisima, then they could headline the card,” said Aldeguer, who says he also has tentative dates for September 18 and November 18.
“Mark, we’ll see this Saturday if he’s deserving.”
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.