Antonio Nieves ready for another run at bantamweight contention
After a hiatus of over two and a half years, Antonio Nieves believes he has another run in him to again become a contender.
Nieves returned to action this past Saturday night at the Civic Center in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, dropping Judy Flores (10-1, 6 knockouts) of the Philippines once en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Scores were 80-72, 80-72, and 80-71 for Nieves, who improved to 20-3-2, 11 KOs.
It took Nieves about a round or two to shake off the ring rust and to get his timing down. The 35-year-old was able to work well behind a jab and eventually put Flores on the defensive. Nieves was able to drop Flores with a left hook to the body in the sixth round, but was not able to finish him off.
Nieves’ last fight took place in October 2019, losing a close unanimous decision to Joshua Greer. His most notable fight took place in September 2017, losing by knockout after the sixth round to then-WBO junior bantamweight titleholder Naoya Inoue.
Despite the long layoff, and again getting acclimated to the ring, Nieves was content with his performance Saturday night.
“The layoff affected my timing a bit,” Nieves told The Ring Monday. “But I felt good in there (getting) the rounds. He was a fast and game opponent with good speed and skills. I had to break him down and get him out of his rhythm.
“Although I haven’t been as active as I’d like to be, I’ve been consistently in the gym. I’m still young. I have a lot more good fights in me. I just need a big platform now with another opportunity. I will be ready when that time comes.”
Nieves is a full-time banker in the Cleveland area.
Tim VanNewhouse, who manages Nieves, acknowledged everything was discussed with Nieves leading up to the Flores fight, including the possibility of retirement. VanNewhouse believes Nieves could become a legit contender and face the best fighters at 115 and 118 pounds.
“As a team, we discussed a lot regarding Antonio’s future,” said VanNewhouse. “Retirement was discussed, but Antonio wasn’t ready. In truth, he really only lost to Inoue. The Greer fight was questionable and everyone knows he was robbed in the (Nikolai) Potapov fight (in March 2017).
“Additionally, at 118 pounds, Antonio is really fighting out of his weight class. He’s really a junior bantamweight. He campaigns at bantamweight mainly due to his region and not many opportunities (exist) in his weight class. So I’ll be positioning him properly for another shot at any of the top 115 or 118-pounders in the world.”
Trainer Joe Delguyd agrees.
“I couldn’t have asked for much more in terms of the type of fight that would knock off two and a half years of ring rust,” said Delguyd. “Flores didn’t come from the Philippines just for a paycheck. This allowed Antonio to compete over eight rounds, dominate the fight and get his timing back for sure.
“Many people over the last two and a half years have talked about fighting Antonio but none of them actually put their name on the dotted line and we know why. Antonio has the ability and (the) ring IQ to compete and defeat any bantamweight in the world.”
Vic Green promoted the card.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing