Quick, what fighter has a 39-1-4 record, has not lost in 12 years, and has won world titles in two different divisions. You say Paul Spadafora? Nope. Hint: After Manny Pacquiao, he may be the most popular Filipino boxer, but like the legendary Eder Jofre (who was equally popular in Brazil), he just might be the best fighter who toils under the radar.
If you said Donnie “Aha” Nietes, you got it right. Nietes, a thinking man’s fighter blends power (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEzPrwDg9i8 ) and technique with a high ring IQ and most recently displayed his skill as the world’s number one 108-pound fighter when he defeated tough Mexican challenger Edgar Sosa (52-9) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California in September 2016. Sosa was entering dangerous terrain, similar to when he was dismantled by Ramon Gonzalez before getting knocked out in the second round last year.
It was Nietes’ second outing in the US and his seventh fight in a row against a Mexican. All three judges scored the fight 120-108 in favor of Nietes. It also was Donnie’s first move to the flyweight division as he had little more to prove in 108 pound division.
In all, Donnie has beaten 15 Mexicans and has even fought and won in Mexico twice (against Ramon Garcia Hirales and Mano Rodriguez). While he has made Mexican opposition his buffet table; his résumé is nevertheless conspicuous by the absence of Japanese.
Donnie said, “I was thinking he would be my last opponent at 108 pounds. I want to fight bigger names. I am very lucky to have a manager and promoter who believe in what I can do and they have always supported me. But I believe I’m done with the 108 division. There’s no one else for me. I want to go after the other world champions out there. One world champion at a time, but I want to fight more if I can.”
Sosa was right opponent for Nietes to get his feet wet as a flyweight and for Aha to get a better idea of what he can expect when he meets better competition.
Approaching Legendary Status
Nietes is the Philippines’s longest reigning world champion. He held the WBO world miniumweight title from Sep., 2007 until Aug., 2010 and the WBO light flyweight title from Aug., 2010 until he vacated the belt last September to campaign in the flyweight division. He is rated No. 1 by the WBO in the flyweight division and the mandatory challenger to newly crowned WBO flyweight champion Zou Shiming of China but that fight has not yet been negotiated.
The legendary label was earned when he broke the great Gabriel “Flash” Elorde’s record, but relatively few have heard of him outside of Asia. It’s always “Manny, Manny, Manny,” but this warrior from Negros Occidental has never lost a title fight since beating Pornsawan “The Tank” Porpramook (20-0) back in September 2007. Before that, “Ahas” was the WBO Asia Pacific champion. His only loss was a highly controversial SD in Jakarta to Angky “Time Bomb” Angkotta (12-2) but the “Bomb”, living up to his nickname, came in six pounds over the weight limit for the fight that took place way back in 2004. He also avenged a 2013 draw with Moises Fuentes by knocking out Fuentes a year later in a savage affair. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnGc4z-GWrA
After clearing out the light flyweight division, Nietes made the decision to jump to flyweight with the hopes of challenging the likes of pound-for-pound king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzales. The idea of a Gonzalez vs. Nietes super fight is truly mouth watering but Gonzales also moved up in weight and now reigns at the super flyweight ranks.
Now at 34 years old, Nietes’ chances to be a dominating long-term flyweight champion look somewhat limited, but he was so good and dominant at 108 pounds for so long that the only way for him to challenge himself at this stage of his career is to move up.
Thai Eaktawan Krungthepthonburi (22-3), 27, has also been mentioned as the next opponent but he has yet to win even a regional title. He lost to Albert Pagara by knockout on Nov. 15, 2012 in Maasin City and also lost to Froilan Saludar by decision on Oct. 26, 2013 in Makati. However, after the Saludar loss however, he has won 15 in straight, but likely would be fodder for the likes of Aha.
Whatever the case, if catch weight fights can be made (and if Japanese boxers like Naoya “Monster” Inoue can become part of the mix), the chances for a mega fight featuring Donnie Nietes as one of the participants can become reality.