CEBU - Donnie Nietes went through the hard way, but still good enough to join an elite cast of Filipino fighters on Saturday night.
The longest-reigning Filipino world champion edged Komgrich Nantapech of Thailand via unanimous decision to claim the vacant International Boxing Federation (IBF) flyweight championship at the Waterfront Hotel and became just the third Pinoy to win titles in at least three weight divisions.
The 34-year-old Nietes leaned on a strong start, but saw his Thai opponent, who’s seven years younger, a tough nut to crack as the Filipino had to withstand a late flurry by his foe to join Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr. as three-division world champions.
"Nahirapan talaga ako kasi matibay siya," Nietes admitted after the fight held before a jampacked crowd. "Pero nag focus pa rin ako para matapos ang laban."
Two judges saw Nietes winning comfortably at 117-111, while the other scored the main event of Pinoy Pride 40: Domination closer at 115-113.
Nietes even admitted after the fight that he felt he could knock his opponent out in the fifth or sixth round, so he just heeded his coach’s call to play the points game instead.
“Nietes!” chants were heard around the jampacked venue starting in the ninth round, yet the home side still failed to put the visitor down.
“We knew it was going to be a tough fight,” ALA Promotions boss Michael Aldeguer admitted. “It’s hard when you fight a young lion who has nothing to lose, but everything to gain.”
"But I think what showed was Donnie’s heart, his will, and his understanding, and IQ for the game,” he added. “He picked his punches really well.”
Unlike Nietes, ALA gym stablemate Mark Magsayao registered a convincing victory as he knocked out Issa Nampepeche of Tanzania early in the first round of their featherweight fight to stay unbeaten after 16 fights.
Jeo Santisima, for his part, outclassed Indonesia’s Master Suro via unanimous decision, although failing to knock out an opponent after seven straight KO wins.