DONNIE Nietes ended 2018 with a big bang.
The Filipino is back as a world champion after outpointing Kazuto Ioka of Japan in a close 12-round fight for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) super-flyweight crown on New Year’s Eve at the Wynn Palace Cotai in Macao.
Two judges scored the bout for Nietes, 118-110 (Levi Martinez) and 116-112 (Patricia Morse Jarman), while the third one saw the Japanese winning, 116-112 (Samuel Nieto Gonzalez), making the 36-year-old Nietes a four-division champion after previously reigning at minimumweight, junior flyweight, and flyweight.
Nietes, a native of Murcia, Negros Occidental, became the latest Filipino to become a current world title holder after the great Manny Pacquiao, Jerwin Ancajas, Nonito Donaire Jr., and Vic Saludar.
He raised his record to 42-1-5, with 23 KOs as he remained unbeaten since 2004.
Ioka, 29, suffered his second career loss to drop at 23-2, 13 KOs. The fight was his second since coming back from retirement last year.