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Donnie Nietes hopes HBO spotlight opens door to big fights

Donnie Nietes, a former 105-pound beltholder, once held the WBO and RING titles at 108 pounds. He currently holds the IBF flyweight title.




13
Feb

Which Filipino boxer holds the record for most consecutive time as a world champion? If your answer was Manny Pacquiao, Flash Elorde or Pancho Villa, those are good guesses and great fighters, but you’d be wrong.

The correct answer, at 3,232 days between reigns in two divisions, is Donnie Nietes. It’s a surprising statistic to those who hadn’t seen it used as a promotional tag in recent years. Stars have risen and fallen in the sport’s lightest divisions, and in his native Philippines, but Nietes is still there, and now holds the IBF flyweight title, his third belt in as many weight classes.

Part of the reason he often gets overlooked is due to his style, which is reliable if not always remarkable. His unassuming personality, which has changed little since he worked his way up from the ALA Gym’s janitor to their first world champion, doesn’t grab attention. He’s also been unable to get the big fights he’d have wanted nearly 15 years into his pro career.

He hopes that will change after he makes his HBO debut on February 24, when he opens the “SuperFly 2” Boxing After Dark card at The Forum against mandatory challenger Juan Carlos Reveco. He’ll be fighting on the same broadcast as Juan Francisco Estrada, Srisaket Sir Rungvisai, Carlos Cuadras and McWilliams Arroyo, company he had long wanted to fight alongside – or against.

“This is the door that will open for me to be able to fight big fights in the United States,” said Nietes (40-1-4, 22 knockouts) in a phone interview following a workout at the Wild Card Gym. “This is the point of being a professional boxer, to fight in the U.S. on a big event like HBO.”

Nietes of Murcia, Negros Occidental, Philippines had previously held the WBO strawweight and junior flyweight titles, scoring wins over respected fighters Moises Fuentes, Francisco Rodriguez Jr. and Edgar Sosa during a run that has seen him unbeaten since his second year as a pro.

Even with his 36th birthday just months away, Nietes is hoping a big win against Reveco (39-3, 19 KOs) will lead to greater relevance, and earn him fights with other champions at 112 pounds, or perhaps even at 115 pounds.

“At this time I’m still young. Maybe many years to come,” Nietes said with a laugh. “I’m 24.”

Ed De La Vega serves as an interpreter for Nietes during a recent media workout. Photo / Jhay Oh Otamias

Nietes’ promoter Michael Aldeguer of ALA Boxing had held two minor promotions for Nietes in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016, hoping to get the help from a big American promoter and network to put Nietes on the world stage. That came in the form of Tom Loeffler of 360 Promotions who added Nietes-Reveco to the card, but whether Nietes can create the demand to see him in big fights is on him.

“It would depend on how Donnie performs on February 24,” said Aldeguer. “His personality is on the reserved side, quiet, humble, not the flamboyant personality like the other fighters posses. His style of fighting may not be appealing to some but those who understand the sport appreciate his smarts and being a tactician in the ring.”

Nietes has spent the past few weeks in Los Angeles with trainers Edito and Edmund Villamor, sparring with the likes of Brian Viloria (who faces Artem Dalakian for the vacant WBA flyweight title in an off-TV bout). Nietes feels Viloria and Sammy Gutierrez, whom Nietes finished in three rounds back in 2013, have similar styles to Reveco, a two-time WBA flyweight titleholder whose losses came when he left his native Argentina.

Training in Los Angeles also allows Nietes to work with strength and conditioning coach Nick Curson, who first worked with Nietes before his second fight with Fuentes in 2014, and worked with him for a few other camps since then, fine-tuning his diet while working to improve his cardio, plus speed and power.

Some of the adjustments he’s encouraged with Nietes are the importance of down time to recover and supplementation as he seeks to extend his career.

Photo / by Jhay Oh Otamias

“Donnie is very professional, humble and very coachable. Like many other champions, he does things the right way, all the time, in conditioning training, boxing, and any other interest,” said Curson. “He is meticulous in the delivery of his effort.”

Even if he’s scarcely gotten exposure in the States, Nietes says he still gets recognized around L.A. by boxing fans. If fame comes, it comes, he figures, but he’ll just keep punching his clock and doing his job just as he always has.

What does Nietes want to be remembered for when his career is finally over?

“Being humble, that’s it,” said Nietes.

 

Video by Cynthia Conte and Daniel Morales

  • ceylon mooney

    im real eager to see this fight.

  • Canek

    Most underrated champion today.

  • dontplayyourself

    His time to shine on the 24th

  • Gian Torres

    Cherry picker Nietes never fought Chocolatito, JF Estrada, Naoya Inoue or Brian Viloria and you can bet he won’t fight Daigo Higa, Wisaksil Wangek, Carlos Cuadras or Khalid Yafai. He doesn’t have the nut sack of brave Filipino warriors like Pacquiao, Flash Elorde, Pancho Villa and Donaire.

    • Hello they’re on a different division. When he was at 108 Lbs these names you mentioned were already on a higher division.

      • Teddy Reynoso

        Yeah, DJ I agree with you. Gian, next time you better do some basic research first. There is also a possibility of Nietes fighting Higa in a unification later this year if Nietes disposed of Reveco and Higa also continue his winning run. The possibility is high that their meeting will land in the US with their growing familiarity and popularity among American fans. It could be included in a major promotion as Super Fly 3 or a companion championship bout.

    • Ten Count Toronto

      They were all guilty of cherry picking. If they really cared about their legacies and wanted to make investments in themselves, Gonalez, Nietes and Narvaez would have figured out a way to fight each other at some point over the past 10 years. They were all about the same size, they could have fought 108 or 112. The more I think about it the more it pisses me off. However since Narvaez did get in the ring with Inoue and the even bigger Donaire, I rank him higher all-time than the others.

  • Teddy Reynoso

    It’s unfortunate that Nietes rise to the world championship scene came at the peak of the immense popularity of Manny Pacquiao Nonito Donaire and Brian Viloria effectively overshadowing him and blurring his feat. Nonetheless, there came a time when Nietes was the only prominent Filipino champion who was left standing as one after the other, those three lost their titles in 2012 and 2013. But since his title fights even against name foes as Pornsawan Porpranok, Edgar Sosa, Raul Garcia, Moises Fuentes and Francisco Rodriguez were local promotions mostly held and televised in and from Mexico and the Philippines, his popularity worldwide never approached those of the illustrious three. A consolation however is that his accomplishments did not escape the discriminating eyes of the Ring which significantly recognized him as its world champion in the light flyweight and as its number one currently at flyweight. With the opportunity to fight against another prominent foe in former world titlist Carlos Reveco in a major promotions to be carried by a major network as HBO, Nietes is indeed in a better position to project himself to a larger audience and fan base. But that will depend upon his performance in the undercards of the Super Fly 2 bannered by the Sor Rungvusai-Estrada bout.

  • Luca Blight

    It looks to me that he hasn’t declined yet. Still fighting at a top level. I wanna see him with the Japanese dude.

  • Oc

    As close to the classic textbook boxing as we have today. A hugely underrated champion.