HE never knew he would go this far, yet Donnie Nietes is on the verge of making history.
And the boxing pride of Murcia, Negros Occidental is waiting in excitement as he is set to break the record notched by the late Gabriel “Flash” Elorde after a technical knockout victory over Carlos Velarde of Mexico over the weekend.
After defending his World Boxing Organization light flyweight belt for the fifth time last Saturday in Cebu, the 32-year-old Nietes will emerge as the longest-reigning Filipino world champion at the turn of the year.
Elorde became world lightweight champion for seven years and three months from 1960 to 1967.
“Syempre I’m happy na ma-break ko yung record ni Flash,” Nietes said on Wednesday in a luncheon hosted by ABS-CBN to celebrate his feat. “Hindi ko naman akalain na malalampasan ko ‘yun.”
“Malaking respeto ko sa kanya,” he was quick to add of Elorde. “Iniidolo ko siya. Elorde is Elorde, walang katulad at walang kapantay.”
Unlike Manny Pacquiao, the world’s only eight-division champion, Nietes’ idea of greatness is longevity of supremacy in one weight class.
“Panatilihan lang na maging world champion at mabigyan ng karangalan ang bansa natin,” said Nietes, who, however, is part of the distinguished list of Pinoy boxers who have won titles in at least two or more divisions, a list that includes Nonito Donaire and Gerry Peñalosa, apart from Elorde and Pacquiao.
It has been a remarkable rise for Nietes from being an ALA boxing stable janitor to the face of the renowned gym.
“Grabe talaga yung sakripisyo, lahat ginagawa namin para sa lahat ng laban,” said the 5-foot-3 pug, who would always go through a rigorous three-month training regimen that included more than 100 rounds of sparring to make weight at 108 pounds.
“Hindi basta-basta,” said Nietes, whose walking weight is around 123 pounds. “Dapat yung weight, i-maintain mo talaga.”
Nietes, though, wasn’t that satisfied with his latest victory after he was declared winner when Velarde surrendered even before the start of the eighth round following a cut above his Mexican foe’s left eye suffered the previous round.
“Medyo yung paano natapos yung laban, medyo hindi ako na-convince sa pagkapanalo kasi hindi ko na-knock out. Konting hindi lang na-kuntento,” he admitted. “Siguro mga ninth round, pwede na siya mapatumba, sa tingin ko.”
After surpassing Elorde’s record, Nietes said he plans to have two more fights before moving up in weight.
“Hindi ko naman sinasabi na nahihirapan ako sa timbang ko, sa akin lang, gusto ko lang makalaban yung kilala tsaka may pangalan.”
ALA promotions vice president Dennis Cañete said Nietes is slated to return to action on Valentine’s Day next year in Macau against a still-undetermined opponent.
“We’re still negotiating,” Cañete said.