DONNIE Nietes wouldn’t be spending Christmas time in the country. Well, at least the remaining part of it.
The 36-year-old Filipino and his small entourage is set to leave for Macau 12 p.m. of Dec. 25, barely a week before he faces Kazuto Ioka of Japan for the vacant World Boxing Organization super-flyweight title.
The 12-round championship bout is set on New Year’s Eve at the Wynn Palace, Cotai Arena.
Nietes gets to spent at least the Noche Buena with his family and loved ones, but everything will concern work after that.
The Nietes team will also be arriving in the country on New Year’s Day.
It doesn’t matter to the three-time world division champion.
“OK lang yun, trabaho lang, Always naman may Pasko at Bagong Taon, pero ang opportunity na lumaban sa world title hindi mo alam kung kalian dadating,” said Nietes’ long-time trainer Edito ‘Ala’ Villamor.
This will be the second time Nietes will be vying for the same WBO crown following a controversial split draw against fellow Filipino Aston Palicte at The Forum in Inglewood, California last September.
Earlier, he relinquished his International Boxing Federation (IBF) flyweight title in order to move up in weight
Nietes, who holds the record for the longest world title reign by any Filipino boxer, sports a career-record of 41-1-5 with 23 KOs. His only loss came in 2004 yet after suffering a split decision against Angky Angkota in Jakarta, Indonesia.
But Ioka is not going to be an easy opponent.
A decorated fighter as an amateur, the 29-year-old Japanese is also a three-time world division champion, who will be fighting in only his second fight since coming out of retirement early this year after getting married to Japanese pop singer Nana Tanimura.
Ioka has a ring record of 23-1, with 13 knockouts, with Amnat Ruenroeng of Thailand the only fighter to deal him a loss via a split decision during their IBF flyweight title match in Osaka four years ago. Ruenroeng went on to compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics when pro boxers were finally allowed to see action.
“Ioka is a great champion. Parehas sila ni Donnie aiming for a fourth division title. Maganda ang laban na ito,” added Villamor.
A common fighter both Nietes and Ioka faced in the past was Juan Carlos Reveco of Argentina.
Ioka scored an 11th round technical knockout win over Reveco to retain his World Boxing Association flyweight crown in 2015, while Nietes knocked him out in the seventh round just last February to retain his IBF championship at The Forum.