CEBU CITY – Donnie Nietes’ reign as world champion lives on.
The Filipino pride hacked out a unanimous decision win over tough Mexican challenger Francisco Rodriguez to retain his World Boxing Organization (WBO) light-flyweight title on Saturday night at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino.
Nietes hurt his right hand in the second half of the fight, but it hardly slowed him down as he handily won the 12-round match by scores of 115-113, 119-109, 118-110.
The 33-year-old Nietes, the longest reigning Filipino champion of all time, improved his record to 36-1-4, with 21 KOs.
“Nahirapan talaga ako. Seventh round sumakit yung kamay ko, pero kahit masakit, suntok pa rin ako ng suntok,” Nietes said afterwards.
Rodriguez, who turned 22 on Friday, kept pressing the action to the champion until late in the fight, but began to fight tentatively in the final round when Nietes bloodied him in the nose.
“Huwag mo ng intindihin yung sakit (ng kamay), basta tapon ka lang tapon ng suntok,” trainer Edmond Villamor told Nietes just before the 12th and final round. “That’s why he was able to bloody Rodriguez in the nose.”
Rodriguez, the former minimumweight champion, fell to 17-3, with 11 KOs.
In the main undercard, Mark Magsayo kept his record unbeaten by stopping a game Rafael Reyes of Mexico in the 2:29 mark of the fifth round of their featherweight match.
The native of Tagbilaran hurt the aggressive Mexican with a series of straight rights before finishing him off with a left uppercut to the delight of the capacity crowd inside the venue.
Magsayo improved to 11-0, with 9 KOs.
Earlier, Kevin Cataraja had a rousing pro debut for ALA boxing stable by scoring a sixth-round knockout of Ardi Tefa of Indonesia.
The end came at the 2:19 mark.