It is hard to believe that despite being a world title holder since 2007, Donnie 'Ahas' Nietes’ boxing career continues to wallow in anonymity.
The record books show that Nietes first became a world champion in September 2007, when he outpointed Thai Pornsawan Porpramook in 12 rounds for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) minimumweight (105 pounds) championship. Nietes enjoyed a lengthy three-year reign, but not a few believe that stretches of inactivity and doughnut-knitted foes contributed to it. In his three-year-run as WBO minimumweight king, Nietes fought only once in 2008 and twice each in 2009 and 2010. Of the five title challengers Nietes defeated, at least two – Eddy Castro and Mario Rodriguez – were certified sacrificial lambs.
In October 2011, Nietes moved up to the junior flyweight class (108 pounds) and defeated Mexican Ramon Garcia Hirales for the WBO plum before a hometown crowd in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. The victory gave Nietes his second division crown, putting him in in the elite list of Filipino fighters who have won at least two division crowns. Still, the win did not vault Nietes to stardom. While he won his second world title by unanimous decision, Nietes actually walked the tightrope against Hirales. Facing his most formidable adversary in years, Nietes was panting like a dog in the second half of the fight and almost succumbed to Hirales’ wayward assaults. Nietes looked alarmingly fragile until the 10th stanza, when he regained his second wind.
Nietes, 31-1 with 17 knockouts, has done little to silence the critics. In June last year, he breezed past untested Mexican Felipe Salguero to make his first successful defense of the WBO junior flyweight title. Five months later, Nietes handily won a non-title bout against Danai Meendaeng – a guy who showed up with a pathetic record of 0-1.
Make no mistake, Nietes is a talented fighter who boxes well and owns a mean overhand right. His career, however, has not progressed to the level where it should be because of his hesitancy to roll the dice.
Everything figures to change on Saturday, when Nietes makes his maiden appearance for the year opposite highly-touted Mexican Moises Fuentes at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino in Cebu City.
In Fuentes, Nietes is facing an opponent who is blossoming into a star in the lower weight divisions. The 27-year-old Fuentes is the reigning WBO minimumweight champ who is moving up in weight in a bid for a second world title. The lanky Fuentes, 16-1 with eight knockouts, captured the WBO minimumweight crown with a gut-wrenching 12-round split decision over Raul Garcia (the twin brother of Ramon Garcia Hirales). He has made two successful defenses, both by knockout. In his most recent outing, October 6, 2012, Fuentes sent Puerto Rican legend Ivan Calderon into retirement with a devastating fifth-round stoppage.
Fuentes’ only setback came in February 2011, when he dropped a razor-close split decision to countryman Juan Hernandez for the North American Boxing Federation minimumweight title. Hernandez showed up overweight for the fight and the extra luggage helped him get past Fuentes.
Fuentes is as tough as nails, having been dropped only once in his career by Garcia. The WBO champ does not move his head particularly well, but he knows how to fight inside and owns a lethal right hook. Fuentes also works the body well and is a tireless workhorse. Nietes will have to be in tip-top shape as he risks capitulating against Fuentes.
It is Nietes’ WBO junior flyweight title which will be at stake in the fight. Fuentes is still the WBO minimumweight king, but he will have to choose which belt to keep in the event he beats the Filipino. "Although we know that fighting Nietes will be difficult, we are confident that Moi (Moises’ nickname) can be crowned in the Philippines. If that win happens, we'll decide which belt to stay with," said Fuentes’ manager Jorge Barrera, the brother of former three-division Mexican champ Marco Antonio Barrera.
The Fuentes fight is make-for-break for the 30-year-old Nietes. The Filipino champ needs nothing short of a breakthrough performance to finally make some headway. It will not be easy considering Fuentes’ resume, but hey, this is the year of the snake, right?