Donnie Nietes finally turns heads with smashing performance in pay-per-view debut
Donnie Nietes is living proof that good things come to those who wait. Jhay Otamias

GOOD things come to those who wait.

In the case of Donnie ‘Ahas’ Nietes, the wait almost took an eternity. After 15 years in the sport, 46 pro fights, three division titles, an incredible 10-year reign as world champ, the 35-year-old Nietes finally emerged from his cocoon and entered the consciousness of international fight fans when he methodically chopped down challenger Juan Carlos Reveco of Argentina to retain his International Boxing Federation (IBF) flyweight (112 lbs.) championship at the Forum in Inglewood, California.

Making his maiden appearance in HBO’s “Super Fly 2” card, Nietes made the most of the opportunity by showcasing his entire arsenal. Facing a smaller but game challenger, Nietes started out in methodical fashion, sticking a piston-like left jab at Reveco’s face to back the challenger up and create openings for his right straight.

Nietes conducted a veritable clinic in the first three rounds. With the crowd getting restless at the lack of frenetic action, Reveco, a two-division world champ, responded by coming out with both guns blazing in the fourth stanza. Reveco started crowding Nietes in the fourth and fifth rounds and was clearly looking to instigate a phone booth slugfest. Nietes’ defense was impregnable, though, as he kept his hands high and blocked most of Reveco’s shots.

There were moments when Nietes seemed willing to trade, if only to please the crowd, but trainer Edito Villamor was quick to douse cold water on his ward’s attempt to deviate. “Stay focused,” Villamor was overheard telling Nietes during the break. “Stay on the fight plan!”

In the sixth round, as Reveco continued to apply pressure, Nietes started to vary his offense. Whenever Reveco recklessly barged in, Nietes responded with nifty left uppercuts that jolted the challenger. In the dying seconds of the round, Nietes caught Reveco with a wicked right hand that wobbled the challenger down to his toenails. Reveco barely made it back to his corner.

Sensing a weary prey, Nietes emptied his arsenal in the seventh round, nailing Reveco with another huge right hand. A bombardment of body blows coupled by a left from Nietes sent Reveco crashing to the canvas. Reveco beat the count, but referee Edward Hernandez Sr. wisely pulled the plug and gave Nietes the seventh-round technical knockout victory.

“Masaya talaga ako kasi magandang performance ang naipakita ko,” Nietes told this writer. “Magaling din siya (Reveco) at medyo nahirapan din ako. Magalaw kasi si Reveco, so naghintay ako sa tamang timing na matamaan ko siya ng solid punch.

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“Matagal ko na ginagamit yung left uppercut at talagang na timingan ko siya.”

Trainer Villamor admitted to feverishly reminding Nietes to adhere to the fight plan. “Sumasabay kasi si Donnie kay Reveco, kailangan niya mag jab palagi, tapos kung makakita siya ng opening either straight to the body, then overhand, then uppercuts sa mukha, then labas sa kanyang kanan para hindi makasuntok si Reveco” said Villamor as he broke down the fight plan. “Kailangang makuha ni Donnie ang timing; kapag nasa defensive position siya kailangang ready ang paa niya para maka counter straight siya or uppercuts, depende sa opening.”

Nietes improved his record to 41-1, 4 draws and 23 knockouts. The pride of Murcia, Negros Occidental, has not lost a fight since September 2004, when he lost a split-decision to an overweight Angky Angkotta. Nietes has been unbeaten in his last 33 fights, with three bouts ending in draws.

From September 2007 to August 2016, Nietes enjoyed an uninterrupted reign as champion in the minimumweight (105 lbs.) and light flyweight (108 lbs.) divisions. In April 2017, some eight months after he gave up the light flyweight crown, Nietes collected his third division crown by outpointing Thailand’s Komgrich Nantapech for the IBF flyweight strap, making him only the third Filipino (after Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr.) to win titles in three weight classifications.

“Pacquiao, of course, is one of the greatest fighters in boxing history and sits atop the list of all-time best from the Philippines, but Donnie Nietes continued to make his case that he belongs in the conversation right behind Pacquiao,” wrote ESPN boxing columnist Dan Rafael.

Nietes is finally getting that long-overdue recognition, and you can say he has no plans to slow down. Nietes has expressed interest in moving up to the junior bantamweight (115 lbs.) division to challenge the big guns that include World Boxing Council (WBC) champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai of Thailand and former pound-for-pound king Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez of Nicaragua.

Now, more than ever, ‘Ahas’ wants to prove that he is the man.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @edtolentino