The past few months have, sadly, been rather quite on the boxing front, at least compared to pre-pandemic times. Despite that it does feel like April is going to be a truly stacked month of action with more fights of note than we've seen all year. Genuinely this coming month is set to be massive, with every type of fight we could hope for! With that in mind lets take a look at what's to come in the early part of the month.
Humo Arena, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6) vs Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17)
The big fight to kick the month off will see IBF and WBA "Super" Super Bantamweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev defending his titles against IBF "interim" champion Ryosuke Iwasa in a highly anticipated bout that would have taken place last year were it not for Covid19. For Akhmaaliev it's his first bout since winning the titles from Daniel Roman in a sensational 2020 bout whilst Iwasa has been out of the ring since beating Marlon Tapales in 2019. The Super Bantamweight division is a criminally slept on one right now, and the winner of this will be in the mix for some brilliant match ups later in the year. For this bout we suspect the strength and technical ability of Akhmadaliev will be up against the power of Iwasa, and we should get something a bit special.
Israil Madrimov (6-0, 5) vs Emmany Kalombo (14-0, 14)
Talking about special it's fair to say that Israil Madrimov might be a bit special, and he gets a chance to show what he can do on this show as he takes on the unbeaten Emmany Kalomobo. The talented Madrimov has been touted as a future world champion since making his debut but showed some cracks last time out. We're expecting a really big performance from him here. Saying that howeber Kalombo will not have travelled from South Africa to Uzbekistan to hand over his unbeaten record and he should be regarded as a live opponent here.
Shakhram Giyasov (10-0, 8) vs Patricio Lopez Moreno (28-4, 20)
Another hotly tipped Uzbek is Shakram Giyasov, who took a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics. He has looked hot and cold at times as a professional, though it appears when he's on song he is an incredible talent with a bright future. We suspect to see him at his very best here, as he takes the chance to impress his countryman. In the opposite corner is highly experienced Mexican Patricio Lopez Moreno, who is no push over, and went 12 rounds with Denys Berinchyk in 2019. Moreno has the tools to test Giyasov, but we are, as mentioned, expecting something impressive from the unbeaten Uzbek.
Hasanboy Dusmatov (2-0, 2) vs Muhsin Kizota (11-2, 5)
Whilst there is a lot of press regarding Madrimov and Giyasov, who have both fought on DAZN before, the Uzbek that really could steal the show is Hasanboy Dusmatov, another Olmypic champion and a man who is wanting to fight for a world title sooner rather than later. The excellent Dusmatov has gone through his first 2 professional bouts without much attention, picking up very easy wins. Here we expect to see him taking on his toughest test so far as he battles Tanzanian fighter Muhsin Kizota. Dusmatov is a very, very special fighter, and needs to move his career quickly to real the heights his potential deserves and we suspect an impressive win here will see his team look to secure a world title fight in 2021. Kizota Kizota's record lacks in terms of quality, but it is worth noting that he went 7 rounds with Sivenathi Nontshinga, and we suspect that Dusmatov will try to take him out quicker than that.
Also on this show are exciting prospects Bakhodir Jalolov (7-0, 7), Elnur Abduraimov (7-0, 6), Sanjar Tursunov (2-0, 1) and the debuting pair of Ikboljon Kholdarov (0-0) and Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov (0-0).
Round 10 Boxing Club, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23) vs Pablo Carrillo (25-7-1, 16)
The long awaited ring return of Donnie Nietes, who hasn't fought since the final day of 2018, takes place this month as he clashes with Colombian veteran Pablo Carillo. The excellent Nietes, a 4 weight world champion who's only loss needs a giant "*" next to it, is looking to secure a career defining fight before finally hanging them up. Carrillo shouldn't pose a threat to Nietes, if Nietes is half the fighter he was, but with such a long lay off it's going to be very interesting to see how Nietes looks here.
Zhankosh Turarov (24-0, 17) Vs Tyrone McKenna (21-2-1, 6)
Unbeaten Kazakh fighter Zhankosh Turarov looks to make a big step up in class as he takes on Tyrone McKenna in what looks like a very good match up. Turarov has been touted for a while, but had a very, very stop start career, plagued by injuries and inactivity. Dubbed "Da Kazakh Kid" he is now 30 and it's do or die time for his career, which has seen him fighting as a pro since 2009! His opponent will be Northern Irishman Tyrone McKenna, who will be incredibly hungry to take a win here, and bounce back from a controversial 2020 loss to Ohara Davies. Although not a marquee fight by any stretch, this should be a hotly contested one, and a bout that sees both men in the ring to win.
Tursynbay Kulakhmet (2-0, 1) Vs Heber Rondon (20-0, 13)
Another unbeaten Kazakh in action is professional novice Tursynbay Kulakhmet, who will be looking to defend his WBC International title for the first time as he takes on the unbeaten Heber Rondon. On paper this looks a really good match up and a good chance to Kulakhmet to show what he can against a solid looking opponent. Although he is being fast tracked there are plenty of areas for Kulakhmet to work and we'd love to see a more polished performance from him here, after a bit of flawed showing last time out. As for Rondon, an unbeaten Venezuelan, this will be his first bout away from home, an is a very steep step up in class. Rondon could be a bit of a surprise fighter here, though we suspect Kualkhmet will have far too much for him.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
Nawaphon Por Chokchai (50-1-1, 40) Vs Sophon Klachun (5-5-1, 1)
Former world title challenger Nawaphon Por Chokchai was hoping to land a WBC title fight in March, tough Covid19 restrictions in France saw that bout collapse. As a result he's now set for a stay busy fight in April as he takes on Sophon Klachun. Ranked #2 by the WBC, in some of the strangest rankings we've seen, Nawaphon is edging towards a second world title fight and really should just be focusing on shaking some ring rust here.
Sakai City Industrial Promotion Center, Sakai, Osaka, Japan
Kaori Nagai (5-2-3, 2) Vs Natsuki Tarui (4-6-2)
JBC Atomweight champion Kaori Nagai will make her first defense of her title as she takes on Natsuki Tarui. On paper this looks a very low level title fight, but in reality the styles of the two should gel really well and we're expecting a fantastic, high tempo bout here. Nagai is in really good form, having won her last 4, and gone unbeaten in her last 8, but Tarui is also much better than her record suggests and is 3-1-1in her last 5. This should be a very good bout.
Sakai City Industrial Promotion Center, Sakai, Osaka, Japan
Tenkai Tsunami (27-12-1, 16) Vs Shione Ogata (11-6-1, 3)
A second Japanese female fighter defending her title on April 4th is WBO female Light Flyweight champion Tenkai Tsunami, who takes on the under-rated Shione Ogata in a solid, if unspectacular, match up. The highly experienced Tsunami 36 and has been a professional since 2005, mixing against many of the best in the world, and is going through one of the best runs of her career. Ogata on the other hand is taking a big step up here, unbeaten in her last 5 and won the WBA Asia, WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF female Light Flyweight titles in her last 4 bouts. This really should be a very, very entertaining clash of styles and a hotly contested 10 rounder.
One thing we haven't seen a lot of over the years are all-Filipino world title bouts, and that's a real shame. Whilst we understand, begrudgingly, champions from the same country not unifying titled what we never understand it why fighters form the same country seem to rarely face off. At least for some countries. And the Philippines is the worse country for this. With that in mind we had a think about some of the bouts we wish we'd had and came up with our latest "Fight we wish we had". Unlike some fights this one doesn't have FOTY written all over it, but would still be a very, very intriguing match up.
Donnie Nietes Vs Johnriel Casimero
As mentioned we don't see Filipino's fighting each other in world title bouts very often, unlike in the UK, US and Mexico, and more recently Japan. That's despite some bouts looking too obvious not to make, and this was one of those obvious ones. Not only was it an obvious match up between one of the most talented fighters and one of the most explosive, but it was also a match up but it was also one that could have taken place at any of 3 different weight classes. In one corner would have been Donnie Nietes, one of the most well schooled and technically brilliant Filipino fighters every, whilst the other corner would have had the wild, explosive and hard hitting Johnriel Casimero. It would have been a clash between a veteran and a hot young stud, and would have been a mouth watering clash, in terms of era and styles.
The window for when this fight could have taken place really is huge, and in theory is still technically open, but appears to on the verge of closing. In theory the bout could have taken place as early as 2009, when Nietes was considering a move up from Minimumweight to Light Flyweight and whilst Casimero was a regional Light Flyweight champion. In 2010 Casimero was WBO interim champion at 108lbs and Nietes was dipping his toes at the weight.
Had it been a little later they could have clashed at Flyweight. Nietes moved up to the weight in 2016 whilst Casimero had been there since 2014. Interestingly Casimero held the IBF Flyweight title in 2016, but vacated it in 2017 before Nietes won it. That would have been the perfect time, early 2017.
The window for the fight then actually continues into 2018 when the two could have clashed at Super Flyweight. If they were to clash now, in 2020, the bout could take place at Bantamweight, but if we're being hones the bout has lost a lot of it's potential appeal, with Nietes now the wrong side of 40 and almost 2 years removed from his last bout.
Donnie Nietes is arguable the most under-rated fighter from 2000 to 2020. He is one of the most skilled and well schooled fighters out there, and someone who proved that being a defensively responsible little guy to really prolong a career. He managed to become of the very few fighters to win world titles at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Super Flyweight and did so without having lightning speed or thunderous power. He did on his ring craft, boxing skills, and IQ.
Although there was a lot of potential opponents Nietes should have faced he did go in with a genuine who's who and took wins against Pornsawan Porpramook, Jesus Silvestre, Mario Rodriguez, Moises Fuentes, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Edgar Sosa, Juan Carlos Revecco and Kazuto Ioka. Not only did he fight a who's who but he also showed a willingness to travel, picking up wins in Mexico, USA and Macau, though didn't really get the reputation of a road warrior. In terms of skills he is criminally under-rated and knew how to adapt when he needed to. A genuinely intelligent fighter.
Whilst Nietes is a 4 weight world champion Johnriel Casimero is a 3-weight world champion, having taken titles titles at Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Bantamweight. Watching him you see almost the opposite of Nietes. Casimero is a wild man at times, a freakish puncher who could box, but often found himself believing more in his power than his skills. His biggest issues wasn't his belief in his power but instead his inconsistencies and professionalism, which actually resulted in his being stripped of a title, looking poor in some bouts and even losing a bout he should have won.
At his best Casimero was a thunderous puncher who showed no fear. He was a road warrior who travelled right around the globe to face a who's who. He travelled to face the likes of Moruti Mthalane, Luis Alberto Lazarte, Pedro Guevara, Amnat Ruenroeng, Charlie Edwards and Zolani Tete. He's very much a throw back, but again inconsistency has been an issue, and in 2017 he lost to Jonas Sultan in a world title eliminator at Super Flyweight. When he was on point he was brilliant, but there was always the worry that we were going to see him have an off night, fail to prepare properly, as he had for his 2014 clash with Mauricio Fuentes, or just not show what he could do.
How would we see it playing out?
The reality here is that we see this being a bout depending on what Casimero turns up. At his very best Casimero is a very hard man to pick against. He was so heavy handed, so quick and so explosive that he had the power to pretty much taken out anyone, and was so unpredictable in his offense that he had a chance to catch anyone clean. On the other hand we know what we'd be getting from Nietes, he was Mr Consistent. He put on solid performance after solid performance, and even against the best Casimero his skills and defense could prove to be a difference maker.
We would expect Casimero trying to box Nietes early on, a poor tactical choice from the younger man but one that showed he wanted to be more than a puncher. We saw that from him numerous times, including his career defining win over Zolani Tete. As the bout went on however we'd see more aggression and more power shots from Casimero, as he changed from boxer to puncher. That would leave him open to Nietes' counter shots and we sispect that those would prove to be the difference as the bout went on, with Nietes slowly breaking down his countryman.
Although we do favour Nietes it should be noted that Casimero is almost a decade younger than Nietes and that age gap could be a tricky obstacle to over-come, even for Nietes. The speed and power edges of Casimero will mean he's always dangerous, he's always in the bout, and he'll only be one shot from turning things around, but Nietes is not an easy man to land that big shot on.
Would history of been changed?
Depending on when the bout took place history could have been very, very different. Had they faced off earlier in the window Nietes' experience and boxing skills would likely have slowed Casimero ascent drastically. He would almost certainly have done a similar job on Casimero that Moruti Mthalane did, and just mentally break Casimero. Had that happened Casimero may never have become the fighter he later became.
Had the bout been in 2016 we would likely have seen Nietes claim the Flyweight title a bit earlier, sending Casimero up in weight a bit earlier and maybe even avoided Casimero's stinking effort against Jonas Sultan. Had that happened there's a good chance that Casimero may have found himself fighting for a Super Flyweight title at some point, maybe even leading the two men to a rematch at 115lbs.
Had the bout been in 2017 or 2018 there's a chance that we would never have seen Casimero make an impact at Bantamweight, and we would almost certainly have not had his upset win over Zolani Tete, leading to a very different look at the Bantamweight scene.
Of course had Casimero managed to beat Nietes at any point his career would have been very different and we wouldn't be talking about Nietes as being so under-rated. Instead we'd be talking about Casimero, potentially, being a pound for pound fighter. Their careers would look very different on reflection.
This pas week hasn't been the biggest news week of the year, but has been a pretty interesting one with returns, retirements and a number ob bout announcements, as well as some punishments from the JBC.
Kuroda to face Mthalane on May 13th
The biggest bout to be announced this week is the IBF mandatory Flyweight title bout between South African world champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) and mandatory challenger Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) [黒田 雅之]. The bout was known to be in the works from the start of the year, with Kuroda have been assured a shot prior to Mthalane's defense in December. It's a good match up, and whilst the champion will be favoured Kuiroda is a veteran challenger who will know that a loss here ends any hope he has of ever winning a world title.
Yamauchi Vs Tuolehazi, Konno Vs Baishanbo
A pair of WBA International title bouts, set to take place on March 30th, were announced for a Shanghai show. One bout will see Yusuke Konno (14-4, 7) [今野裕介] battle Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) [拜山波] for Baishanbo's title at 140lbs whilst the other bout is an even more interesting contest between unbeaten youngster Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) [山内涼太] and world ranked Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5). We're still expecting 1 more bout to be announced for this show, but two bouts we now have are fantastic.
Sho Kimura to return in China in Spring!
China won't just play host to the two WBA International title fights mentioned above but also to the return of former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) [木村翔], who is set to fight "in Spring" in China. It's unclear if he will be on the same show as the two bouts above, though it is known that he will be continuing his career and despite losing to Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) [田中恒成] last year he isn't hanging up the gloves. Fingers crossed that we get more news on Kimura's return next week!
Akira Yaegashi's return set for April 8th
Popular Japanese warrior Akira Yaegashi (27-6, 15) [八重樫 東] will be back in action as the headline attraction of an April 8th show at the Korakuen Hall. At the moment the full details of his bout haven't been announced, though it's expected to be a "world title prelude" over 10 rounds at Super Flyweight. Yaegashi is one of the most popular Japanese fighters, due to his style, and we're glad to see him back in the ring, though we do worry about his health if he does fight for a world title.
WP Boxing to return in March
The excellent WP Boxing, from Thai television channel Work Point, will also be making a return, with their next show being set for March. WP Boxing raised the standard for Thai broadcasts last year, having high quality matches, a sizable audience and a professionalism rarely seen in other Thai shows, so we're really looking forward to seeing what WP Boxing brings in 2019.
Unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo signs Top Rank deal
Uzbek Welterweight contender Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 6) [Қудратилло Абдуқаҳҳоровдан] has long been linked to an IBF Welterweight world title eliminator with Japanese puncher Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18) [小原 佳太], with that bout set to be set for March 30th. The news this week is that the UZbek hopeful has now inked a deal with American promoter Bob Arum and Top Rank, who will promote his next 3 bouts, including the March 30th contest.
Erika Hanawa retires
Just days after losing in her second world title bout Japan's Erika Hanawa (10-4, 4) [塙英理加] handed in a retirement notice to the JBC. Hanawa had really put in an excellent performance against WBC female Light Flyweight champion Yesenia Gomez (15-5-3-1, 6) but had made it clear that she would retire if she lost. We're hoping she reconsiders her decision in the future, given that she is only 28, though for now at least that's the end of her short but notable career. As well as he losses in world title bouts she would win a couple of regional titles and mix top company during her 14 fight career.
Nietes Vs Palicte purse bids set
The WBO have laid down the law, and have announced that the purse bids for the WBO Flyweight world title bout, between defending champion Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23) and mandatory challenger Aston Palicte (25-2-1, 21) will take place on February 28th. The rumour is that Nietes' team were looking else where for bouts, but the WBO seem to be wanting to rule with an iron fist this year, and this is the second time they have done something to stamp their authority. The odds are that Nietes will vacate if the money for this bout isn't as attractive as it is for other contests, however we do expect to see the purse bids take place and for Nietes' team to weigh up their options before deciding what's next.
JBC officials punished for time keeping error
The JBC announced punishments for 3 different officials this week due to a time keeping error back in December in an OPBF title fight. The toughest punishment was given to the time keeper, who has been given an indefinite suspension, whilst others have been cautioned. It's clear that the JBC saw this error, or rather the number of errors, as seriously harmful to the sport, and it's interesting to see they have taken such a harsh line. In a way it's admirable, though it is perhaps setting a standard that other countries won't follow.
As we into the middle of December we need to remember there's a lot to look forward in the back end of the month. Here we take a look at the final week or so of the month.
If you missed part 1 that's available here - What's to come in December...Part 1 and part 2 is here - What's to come in December...Part 2
All Japan Rookie of the Year Finals - Tokyo, Japan
Professional boxing's biggest annual tournament comes to a close on December 23rd in Tokyo, as we see the latest All Japan Rookie of the Year champions being crowned. The tournament might not make much of a mark internationally but it puts the winners on the fast track to domestic success and with the whole card being shown live on G+ it goes us a brilliant pre-Christmas being treat.
Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) Vs Yuki Strong Kobayashi (14-7, 8) - Osaka, Japan
The final major bout for us before Christmas comes from Osaka and sees the hard hitting Keita Kurihara take on Yuki Strong Kobayashi for the vacant OPBF Bantamweight title. The match up is a solid looking lower tier match up, though what needs to be noted is that both men are better than their records suggest, with both suffering a number of defeats early in their careers, and to good fighters. We're expecting a hard hitting affair here and it should be very exciting.
Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12) Vs Evgeny Chuprakov (20-0, 10) - Tokyo, Japan
After a little bit of a break for Christmas big action returns on December 30th, as we run towards an explosive end to 2018. One of 3 title bouts on the penultimate day of the year will see Masayuki Ito make his first defence of the WBO Super Featherweight title, as he takes on unbeaten mandatory challenger Evgeny Chuprakov. A win here will open up some big fights for Ito in the new year, and he has stated that he intends to return to the US, where he won the title, to make future defenses. For Chuprakov the bout is a big step up in class, but he is certainly a live challenger.
Kenshiro (14-0, 8) Vs Saul Juarez (24-8-2, 13) - Tokyo, Japan
The longest reigning Japanese champion Kenshiro will also be on the December 30th card, defending his WBC Light Flyweight title against Mexican veteran Saul Juarez. Kenshiro has been incredibly impressive recently, beating the likes of Ganigan Lopez, Pedro Guevara and Milan Melindo, and this looks like a step backwards, unfortunately. Juarez is a good fighter, or rather was a good fighter, but his form has been less than great recently and he is 2-4-2 in his last 8 bouts. Juarez, at his best, would be a good opponent for Kenshiro, but he looks to be beyond his best, even if he is only 28.
Takuma Inoue (12-0, 3) Vs Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-0, 33) - Tokyo, Japan
The third major bout on December 30th will see the unbeaten pairing of Takuma Inoue and Petch Sor Chitpattana facing off for the WBC "Interim" Bantamweight title, a title that's an interim belt whilst the WBC wait to sort out the mess of their vacant "regular" title. This is a brilliant match up, between two talented youngsters, though sadly the politics of the WBC have left this bout feeling less glamorous than it should be. The winner will get a shot at the full WBC title in the new year, if and when the WBC actually get around to crowning an actual champion. With a combined 60-0 record these two do make for an interesting fight, but this is a huge step up in class for the Thai, whilst Inoue, the younger brother of Naoya Inoue, has fought a number of world class opponents during his short career.
Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13) Vs Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23) - Macau
It's not just December 30th that will be delivering a triple header, but also December 31st, which has one of the very best match ups of the year. The match up in question pits a couple of 3-weight world champions against each other, with Japan's Kazuto Ioka taking on Donnie Neites for the Vacant WBO Super Flyweight title. Both fighters are looking to become only the third man in history to win titles in the lowest 4 weight classes, both are looking to etch their names into the history books and help set up major bouts in 2019. Amazingly this will be the first time Nietes has ever faced a Japanese fighter whilst Ioka hasn't fought a Filipino in over 8 years! We expect to see a lot of skill on show here in what coul be a potential FOTY candidate.
Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10) vs Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8) - Macau
The second best bout on New Year's Eve will see WBA Light Flyweight champion Hekkie Budler defending his title against former IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi. This will be Budler's first defense of the title, which he won earlier this year in Japan by out point Ryoichi Taguchi, and he will be facing a stablemate of the man he beat for the belt. For Kyoguchi it's a great chance to become a 2-weight champion and to score a massive win to end the year. A win here for either man will set them up for massive bouts in 2019, with possible unification bouts in the new year.
Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24) Vs Masahiro Sakamoto (13-1, 9) - Macau
A second South Africa Vs Japan bout will see IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane defending his title against little known Japanese fighter Masahiro Sakamoto. The South African is enjoying his second reign as the IBF champion, having won the title earlier this year in a nail biter against Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem, but at the age of 36 we do wonder what he has left, and he certainly looked like he was aging in the final rounds against Waseem. Sakamoto really is only known in boxing circles for losing to Sho Kimura, in a regional title bout, but has impressed since then and is a smart fighter who will know he has the opportunity of a life time here.
This past Saturday Filipino fans saw Donnie Nietes (40-1-4, 22) further enhance his legacy as he became just the third Filipino fighter to become a 3-weight world champion, a feat he accomplished by defeating Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking (22-4, 15) by decision for the IBF Flyweight title. The win took Nietes to 15-0-1 (6) in world title bouts and saw him extend his current unbeaten run to 32 fights, 29 wins and 3 draws, since a controversial defeat in 2004 to Angky Angkotta in Indonesia.
Despite the incredible numbers that Nietes has there are still some lingering issues with his career, and sadly it may be too late for those issues to ever be over-come and for him to ever become a boxing legend. And those issues could mean that “Ahas” is set to be remembered as a long term champion who lacked real wins of significance, and failed to get the bouts to prove how good he really is. Whilst those in the Philippines will look at his achievements, including his 3-weight title reigns, his 10 years at the top and his 13 year unbeaten run, others may end up feeling like he was one of the sports greatest under-achievers or a man who really should have tested himself against the best.
Nietes began his career way back in 2003 and climbed through the ranks quickly, getting his first world title fight in September 2007. That bout saw the then 21-1-3 (13) Nietes battle with the then then unbeaten Pornsawan Porpramook (20-0, 15 at the time) for the vacant WBO Minimumweight title. The title had been vacated by Puerto Rican great Ivan Calderon, who had chosen to move up in weight after more than 10 defenses of the belt in a 4 year period. Nietes over-came Porpramook with a unanimous decision to announce himself on the world stage.
With the title Minimumweight around his waist Nietes would notch up 4 defenses of the title, all against Latin American foes. The first of those was against Eddy Castro, who had done nothing to deserve a title fight and had lost to a very limited fighter in his previous bout. The second saw Nietes travel to Mexico to take on the #2 ranked Erick Ramirez, who was game but out matched and dropped 4 times en route to a decision loss. The third also saw Nietes travel, as he took a split decision over “interim” champion Manuel Vargas, in what was a really credible defense for Nietes especially on the road. The final defense by Nietes was again in Mexico, as he beat Mario Rodriguez with a wide decision. Coming in to that bout Rodriguez was ranked #10 by the WBO but had won just 10 of his 18 bouts.
Whilst it should be noted that Rodriguez would later go on to hold the IBF title, upsetting Nkosinathi Joyi in 2012, his reign at the top was a short one with Katsunari Takayama taking the title from him just 6 months later. Porpramook and Rodriguez would be the only world title foes of Nietes's at 105lbs to go on to win a world titles themselves.
Between winning the title in 2007 and relinquishing it in 2010 Nietes had racked up 4 defenses but in all honesty none was against a consensus top 10 opponent. At the time the division had fighters like Roman Gonzalez, Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Raul Garcia, Nkosinathi Joyi, Katsunari Takayama, Florante Condes, Juan Palacios and Denver Cuello and for Nietes to skip through the division having faced none of those fighters is a disappointment.
Following the win over Rodriguez we saw Nietes move up in weight and quickly capture the WBO Light Flyweight title, taking a decision over Ramon Garcia Hirales for the title in October 2011. Having captured a second divisional title Nietes had the potential to really crank home his claim as being on the fringes of the pound for pound rankings, though sadly his competition did little to strengthen that claim, despite the fact he defended the title 8 times before vacating it in late 2016.
Nietes first defense of the Light Flyweight title saw him defeat Felipe Salguero, who has lost just 2 fights earlier and had done little to earn a title fight, despite the WBO and IBF some how ranking him at #7. That defense was followed by a controversial majority decision against a very hungry Moises Fuentes, who seemed to out work and out battle Nietes despite only earning a draw. The draw with Fuentes was a solid defense, despite the judging feeling a little out of touch, but it was followed with a frankly ridiculous match up against Sammy Gutierrez. Despite only being 27 Gutierrez was looking a shadow of the fighter he had once been and had lost 4 of his previous 9 bouts, 2 by stoppage, before being blown out in 3 rounds by Nietes.
A rematch with Fuentes followed, with Nietes putting on a clinic to stop Fuentes in 9 rounds, in what was a really outstanding performance from the Filipino. That was followed with a less than great match up against Carlos Velarde, who had been best known for being clean KO'd by Ryo Miyazaki in a WBA Minimumweight title fight just 18 months earlier. Velerde was outclassed from the start and was retired at the end of round 7 having done little to test Nietes. Velerde was followed by Gilberto Parra Medina, who also looked out classed, though did claim a couple of rounds before being stopped after 9 rounds.
The real standout win by Nietes at Light Flyweight was his 7th defense, when he defeated Francisco Rodriguez Jr. “Chihuas” had unified titles at Minimumweight before moving up in weight. He looked to have struggled against Jomar Fajardo, twice, but was considered a very live opponent when Nietes took him on. Sadly for the Mexican the move up in weight didn't suit him and he was out boxed by Nietes, who scored one of his most credible wins to date.
In his final defense of the title Nietes beat the tough but thoroughly limited Juan Alejo. Coming in Alejo had won his previous 20 bouts, after a 0-3 start, but his opponents had been real unknowns and hadn't really qualified him for a world title fight. He showed guts and toughness against Nietes, but that was about it.
During Nietes's reign at Light Flyweight he again faced very few top fighters. When the division featured the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Kazuto Ioka, Kompayak Porpramook, John Riel Casimero, Ryoichi Taguchi, Felix Alvarado, Randy Petalcorin, Akira Yaegashi, Adrian Hernandez, Jonathan Taconing Ganigan Lopez and Pedro Guevara, we again saw Nietes avoid most of the top fighters.
His win over Eaktawan this past weekend saw Nietes again claiming a previous vacant title, like his first belt. He had been the mandatory for the WBO Flyweight title, which would have meant a fight with Chinese fighter Zou Shiming, but he elected to go the IBF route. It wasn't a bad decision, and no one can criticise him for the way the rankings work, but it's fair to say that Eaktawan is far from a genuine top 10 Flyweight.
Whilst Nietes has began talking about big fights at Flyweight the feeling is that he'll again talk about big match ups but fail to get them.
Away from his world title fights he again has faced some notable names, including Jesus Silvestre and Edgar Sosa, albeit a shot to pieces Sosa and a pre-prime Silvestre but both are solid fighters and do add to Nietes's reputation.
Sadly for Nietes the failure to face a single Japanese or Filipino fighter in his world title bouts is amazing. The divisions he has held titles in have been dominated by fighters from the region yet Nietes hasn't faced any so far. Likewise his failure to fight in a unification bout, or against more than a handful of consensus top 10 fighters is also a major issue.
He does hold some good wins, including victories over Porpramook, Vargas, Fuentes and Rodriguez, but that is a small number for a man who has been at the top for 10 years. It looks like he has been moved carefully and made the most of the WBO's weak rankings to milk the title rather than really go out and chase legacy defining bouts.
Whilst no one can criticise Nietes' skills, and he really is a talented fighter who at the age of 34 is still one of the most gifted fighters on the planet, they can quite freely rip his record to pieces and his 15-0-1 record world title fights sounds impressive, but the reality is that only a small number of his foes were genuinely world class when he faced them.
There is always the argument that a fighter can only fight opponents willing to face him. And that is always true. However to believe that a man who has been champion for 10 years over 3 divisions to have been avoided by so many top fighters is simply unfathomable and Nietes, and his team at the ALA gym, need to take some blame for the competition. That level of competition is why Nietes will never get the credit that his ability, and achievements, deserve.
Had Nietes beat just a few of the notable fighters that were available he would have enhanced his reputation immeasurably, and sadly it may be too late for him to make up for those bouts that should have been
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