FOR 12 rounds, World Boxing Organization (WBO) light flyweight (108 pounds) champion Donnie 'Ahas' Nietes and Mexican challenger Moises Fuentes waged a brand of fistic Armageddon that had the sellout crowd at The Waterfront Hotel and Casino in Cebu City screaming their lungs out.
It was a battle of strategies from the outset. Nietes got off to a sizzling start, rocking Fuentes in the opening round with vicious right hands. Fuentes' upper body was as stiff as the statue of Jose Rizal at the Luneta and Nietes capitalized early on by repeatedly landing looping right hands on the Mexican's exposed jaw.
Nietes offered an unorthodox fighting style that befuddled Fuentes. The 30-year-old native of Murcia, Negros Occidental fought out of a crouch, making it difficult for Fuentes' dreaded right straight to find its mark. On Nietes' side, the crouching style allowed him to gain leverage to unload his looping right hand with optimum force.
The only drawback in the crouching style is that it prevented Nietes from putting combinations together. Crouching low gave Nietes' right hand that extra crunch, but the style limited his offensive game to one right hand at a time. There were moments when Nietes rocked Fuentes with a right hand launched from the waist up, but he couldn't muster enough strength to make a follow-up, his energy having been all focused on the initial punch thrown.
Fuentes showed up with a strategy of his own. After emerging from the first round with a black eye, Fuentes started unloading debilitating body shots at Nietes. Fuentes did not let up on the body punches and it looked as though he was trying to deliver his brand of liposuction on Nietes. Nietes' waistline may have shrunk at the end of the fight because of Fuentes' relentless body assaults.
Nietes kept the fight close and interesting by continuing to land occasional right hands. The momentum of the fight, as well as the complexion of Nietes, changed in the sixth round, when the WBO champ sustained a cut on the right eye. With blood dripping from his eyebrow, Nietes wisely started moving around the ring. It did not get any better for Nietes, though, as he was also cut on the left eye in the 9th stanza. Fuentes came out strong in the 10th round, bombarding a bloodied Nietes to the head and body. Nietes, who occasionally sought refuge along the ropes, looked winded.
Nietes, however, came out strong in the last two rounds. In the 12th and final frame, the WBO champ rocked Fuentes with vicious head shots. Nietes picked his shots well and employed just enough lateral movements to avoid Fuentes' counter punches.
When the bell sounded to end the fight, both fighters raised their hands and tried to claim victory. Predictably, the scorecards reflected the close contest. Filipino Judge Danrex Tapdasan scored it 115-113 for Nietes, but the two remaining judges, Adalaide Byrd and Pat Russell, both scored the fight a draw at 114-114. This writer, who provided color commentary for ABS-CBN, scored the fight 114-114.
Officially, the match went down as a majority draw. In a draw, the status quo is retained which means that Nietes, as the defending champion, gets to keep the WBO light flyweight strap. In effect, Nietes still came out as a winner because he went home with the belt wrapped around his waist.
It was really a tough fight to call, but the draw was acceptable. Nietes did not deserve to win, but he also did not deserve to lose. Fuentes was a game fighter and the guy lived up to his resume, but Nietes did not back down. While Fuentes offered a busier work rate, it was Nietes who uncorked the spine-tingling punches.
As he came in as the reigning WBO minimumweight (105 pounds) champion, Fuentes also did not go home a loser. He remains the WBO's minimumweight champ, but he may have to decide if he will keep the belt or remain in the light flyweight class.
Boxing and ALA Boxing Promotions were the clear winners in the fight. Nietes ad Fuentes gave it their best, unfortunately it was not enough to settle the score between them. Then again, one good fistic serving definitely deserves another, right?