If a fighter's decade could ever be criminally under-rated it's that of Filipino great Donnie Nietes, who did what none of his countrymen managed. He was consistent though the decade, racking up wins, remaining active and moving up through the weights with success. He made one ridiculously stupid decision in 2019, which has seen him essentially sitting out the year, but his body of work over the whole decade has been tremendous and he is, for us, the Filipino fighter of the decade, and #2 on our Asian fighter of the Decade count down.
To begin the decade Nietes was the WBO Minimumweight champion, and had been since September 2007 when he beat Pornsawan Porpramook. He had entered the decade 25-1-3 (14), with 3 world title defenses under his belt. By the end of the decade he had become a 4-weight champion with a string of impressive names on his record, and wins around the globe, becoming a low key road warrior, and a staple of the lower weight classes. He didn't get the acclaim of Nonito Donaire or Manny Pacquiao, due to fighting in the lower weight classes, but his achievements, skills, record for the decade all stand up to scrutiny.
Nietes kicked off the decade with a none-title fight against Jesus Silvestre, who went on to be in the world title mix for a good chunk of the decade and arguably deserves to be the WBA Minimumweight champion in 2013 when he lost a razor thin decision to Ryo Miyazaki. He would then go on to defend his WBO Minimumweight title against future IBF champion Mario Rodriguez, travelling to Mexico for the bout. A move up to Light Flyweight in 2011 saw him claim the WBO title, beating Ramon Garcia Hirales, and he made a string of defenses against the likes of Moises Fuentes, Francisco Rodriguez Jr and Raul Garcia.
Another move up in 2016 saw Nietes defeat Edgar Sosa, Komgrich Nantapech and Juan Carlos Reveco, becoming a 3 weight champion thanks to the IBF Flyweight title before defeating Kazuto Ioka at the end of 2018 to become the WBO Super Flyweight champion, and a champion in his 4th weight class.
In 19 bouts during the decade Nietes has gone 17-0-2 (9), beaten a string of notable lower weight fighters, and moved through the weights. He may not have the huge names on his record that others do, but wins over Fuentes, Rodriguez Jr, Ioka, Reveco, Sosa, even an old Sosa, are very solid. He took the decade and punched his way into Filipino history books, in what has been a brilliant decade for "Ahas", who aged like a fine wine. It's just huge shame that he failed to top it off with any fights at all in 2019 given how big his win over Ioka was at the end of 2018.
When most top smaller men retire in their early 30's Neites was still beating top fighters the wrong side of 35, and was doing it not on power and speed, but on boxing IQ and skills, and that is a real testament to how good "Ahas" has been through decade.
During the next year we're expecting to see the Light Flyweight division become the “must watch” weight class. Given that it's often been an over-looked weight class we're really hoping that 2016 can be a year where fans do get excited and do start to give the division the attention that it deserves, and of course we also hope to see some great match ups. Ahead of any major announcements we've thought of 5 fights that we want to see this coming year in what is the second part of out "Bouts we want..." series, following on from the Minimumweight version here.
The interim Champion
The Philippines have several other notable fighters in this division including WBA interim champion Randy Petalcorin who is a much touted southpaw with venomous power and an exciting style. “Razor” is exciting fighter though one who hasn't yet scored a major win with his best scalp to date being against Walter Tello. Hopefully this year we will find out a lot more about the 23 year old southpaw and find out if he has the ability to claim a “real” world title.
Milan Melindo will be the next Asian fighter to fight for a Light Flyweight title when he steps up to take on IBF champion Javier Mendoza on April 25th. Melindo is a fabously talented fighter but one who seems to struggle when he steps up a level and he has struggled with both Jean Piero Perez and Martin Tecuapetla in recent bouts. He's talented but lacks the power and consistency to be genuinely world class.
The notable none Asian (I)
Having just mentioned the IBF champion it makes sense to talk about him a little bit. The heavy handed Javier Mendoza is a wonderfully fun fighter to watch with serious power, aggression and pressure. He's not the most technically capable nor the fastest but it may well take a very good fighter to beat him. Melindo, in our eyes, lacks the style to get the job done in Mexico but it will be fun when the two collide.
The notable non Asian (II)
Mexico's Pedro Guevara may well be the best fighter in the division and yet the 25 year old is generally over-looked by many in the division. Part of the reason he is over-looked is that he lost his first step up bout, coming up short against John Riel Casimero, however since then he has scored 4 straight wins including notable victories over Raul Garcia, Mario Rodriguez and most recently Akira Yaegashi. This kid is extremely talented and appears to have all the tools to be a star.
Images courtesy of:
WBO Boxing (Nietes)
Essam Sanbani (Raymi)
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features