The first minute of the fight was slow, really slow. From then on however the action picked up and by the end of the opening stanza it seemed we may have been heading towards a FOTY contender. The action was forced by Rodriguez, who kept coming forward, and Neites responded by holding his feet and going toe-to-toe with the Mexican, landing some very sharp and accurate shots.
In the second round we saw real drama as Nietes, who had looked great for the first 2 minutes, was tagged by a right hand. The shot seemed to stun him for a second or two as he was forced to hold on and see out the round that could easily have been stolen from him. The effects of the shots at the end of round 2 seemed to still be taking their toll early in round 3 as Nietes began to fight on the back foot and no get dragged into a relentless brawl with the Mexican. The round was one of the bouts closest and could have gone either way.
Nietes's stemmed the tide slightly in round 4 as he began finding his range and timing Rodriguez with counters. The Mexican kept bringing the pressure though he seemed to struggle to actually land much in turned of punches whilst Nietes managed to get to the body of the challenger. It was a tough round for Nietes but one that he seemed to just win.
Through 4 rounds the fight was close though in the 5th round it seemed that the Filipino changed his tactics, began to move more and draw Rodriguez on to his shots. It was an excellent change from the experienced champion who quickly found a home for his uppercut which landed almost at will through out the round. It was a shot that made the most of Rodriguez's flaws and seemed to take some of the fight out of the challenger who was again second best in the 6th round.
Going into the second half of the fight it seemed like Nietes was going to run away with it though the Mexican managed to fight back well in round 7 and again in round 8 as the Mexican found a second wind and kept the rounds ultra-competitive. It was hard work for both and it was being fought at a gruelling pace with Rodriguez refusing to take a backwards step and Neites being forced to fight fire with fire.
The pace of the fight began to take it's toll on both men in round 9 with both visibly slowing and tiring. Despite the place slowing the level of skill on offer was still high and both had their moments with combinations and eye catching shots. Unfortunately for the Mexican however it seemed he was in a hole and was going to need to do a lot to turn things around. The challenger tried in round 10 though Neites managed to find the space to get his jab going, the energy to get on his toes and do enough to just nick a close round, though one that could easily have swung the other way.
Nietes began round 11 boxing on the back foot and having real success with his counters whilst Rodriguez's face began to look more and more swollen. The Mexican proved his toughness by continuing to come forward but for 2 minutes of the round he was second best. The final minute however saw the round swing with Nietes getting hurt with a body shot and going on the retreat whilst holding and spoiling. It was a round that could have gone either way though seemed to suggest that Nietes could be in trouble in the final round.
Going into the final round it was clear that Rodriguez would need a KO to win, he had made a lot of rounds close but as the visitor, and challenger, it was unlikely that he was going to get those rounds in his favour. Unfortunately for him he seemed to have the fight take out of him as Neites caught him early in the round and appeared to leave him with a broken nose. From then on the two did little other than move around each other until Rodriguez came forward very late in the round, by then however it was too little too late.
Given the fact there had been numerous close rounds we were expecting a series of “close but competitive” looking cards in favour of the Filipino. Sadly however only one card showed the competitive nature of the bout as the judges cards read 115-113, 119-109 and 118-110. They had all got the right guy winning, but at least two of those cards failed to show any real fairness of the bout we had witnessed.
The win for Nietes cements his position as one of the top Light Flyweights on the planet, the question however is where does he go next? There is talk of a move to Flyweight for a potential clash with Roman Gonzalez however unification bouts with Pedro Guevara, Ryoichi Taguchi and Javier Mendoza would also being attractive match ups, as would an all-Filipino contest with the hard hitting Jonathan Taconing.
As for Rodriguez we hope to see him back in the ring as soon as his nose recovers, though maybe at a lower level as he's had a lot of gruelling fights in recent times and his body needs an easy fight or two before another fight at the championship level. We also expect to see him move up to Flyweight sooner rather than later.