WORLD Boxing Organization (WBO) light flyweight (108 pounds) champion Donnie ‘Ahas’ Nietes extended what is already the longest reign in Philippine boxing while compatriot Nonito ‘The Filipino Flash’ Donaire Jr. showed that he still has a lot of mojo left as the two dominated their respective opponents in the latest edition of Pinoy Pride at the Araneta Coliseum.
Donaire Jr. shrugged off the effects of the cataclysmic knockout defeat he suffered in the hands of Jamaican Nicholas ‘Axe Man’ Walters last October by dispatching an overtly passive William Prado of Brazil in two rounds. While Prado was meticulously picked to serve as a cannon fodder, having been inactive for almost 11 months going in, he was expected to make Donaire Jr. sweat at the very least. Donaire Jr. showed up in the ring with as many question marks as there are in the Riddler’s costume. More than the physical damage of the numbing defeat to Walters, there was the psychological scar Donaire Jr. was looking to exorcise against Prado.
Instead of coming out fast to take advantage of Donaire Jr.’s confidence issues, Prado allowed the former multi-division champion to find his groove. Donaire Jr. came out throwing probing but hard left jabs. Prado initially blocked the blows by keeping his gloves glued to his face, but his defense eventually crumbled as Donaire Jr. started putting his combinations together.
In the second canto, a series of wicked left uppercuts sent Prado reeling to the ropes. In a wink of an eye, Donaire Jr. was all over Prado like sauce on spaghetti, forcing referee Bruce McTavish to step in and pull the plug.
“For now, I’m okay,” said Donaire Jr. as he marked his return to the junior featherweight class (122 pounds) after yielding the World Boxing Association (WBA) featherweight (126 pounds) crown to Walters. “But I still have a lot of work to do. Nanggigil pa din ako. Kailangan kong maghintay, tingnan muna ang situation. But for now, I’m okay in this weight class. Kayang kaya ko ang 122 (pounds). I hope to fight for the championship by the end of the year.”
Donaire Jr., who improved his ledger to 34-3 with 22 knockouts, is eyeing a showdown with undefeated World Boxing Council (WBC) junior featherweight champ Leo Santa Cruz of Mexico. Santa Cruz, 29-0 with 17 knockouts, captured the WBC’s 122-pound strap in August 2013 and has since posted four successful defenses. “Maganda ang laban na ito kay Santa Cruz,” Nonito’s father and trainer, Nonito Donaire Sr., told this writer. “Kasi si Santa Cruz walang lakas pero tumatapon ng maraming punches in any direction din. Pero itong si Nonito, may lakas na at bilis ng paa. Palagay ko mananalo kami by knockout dito.”
While Donaire Jr. hurdled the first step of what he hopes will be a successful comeback, Nietes is looking to stretch his current seven-year reign to a full decade after he repulsed a slippery Gilberto Parra of Mexico via technical knockout in nine rounds. Nietes encountered difficulty tracking down Parra who moved around the ring like he was an ice skater. In the eighth round, Nietes finally dropped the elusive Parra with a textbook left jab-right straight combination. Parra barely survived the round, but his fate was sealed. In the ninth stanza, Nietes landed a hammer-like right that busted Parra’s face. Parra did not go down, but he quit at the end of the round after suffering a horrendous cut on his left eye. “Sa first round pa lang, sabi ko kaya ko siyang (Parra) patumbahin,” said Nietes. “Sabi ko sa sarili ko, ‘Pasensiya lang.’ Ayun, nakuha ko. Natamaan din ako ng konti pero nakaya ng lakas ko.”
Nietes, who has been a world champion since 2007, is up for a mandatory defense against former WBO minimumweight (105 pounds) champion Francisco Rodriguez (17-2, 11 knockouts) in July. Rodriguez was the same Mexican who handed Filipino Merlito ‘Tiger’ Sabillo his first defeat by way of an impressive 10th round knockout. If Nietes (35-1, 21 knockouts) gets past Rodriguez, the plan is to go up in weight and challenge WBA-WBO flyweight (112 pounds) king Juan Francisco Estrada (32-2, 23 knockouts) of Mexico. “Ten years (as champion), depende sa panahon, pero kakayanin natin,” said Nietes.