Back at the very end of 2018 we saw two legendary Asian fighters face off in Macau, as Donnie Nietes (43-1-6, 23) claimed a career defining win, and picked up the WBO Super Flyweight title, with a controversial and highly disputed win over Kazuto Ioka (28-2, 15) [井岡一翔], to become a 4-weight world champion. Sadly for Nietes poor decision making, and issues involving ALA Gym, saw him fail to build on that victory with Nietes giving up the title rather than defending it and establishing a reign in what was his 4th weight class.
With Nietes giving up the title we then quickly saw Ioka win the title, stopping former Nietes foe Aston Palicte to win the belt, and become a 4-weight champion himself, the first Japanese male to achieve the feat. Since then he has established himself as one of the top fighters at 115lbs, with 4 defenses of the title, whilst Nietes has been left on the outside looking in.
Now aged 40 Nietes looks to repeat his win over Ioka, and reclaim the title he gave up so cheaply in 2019, whilst the 33 year old Ioka looks to avenge one of his two professional losses and continue his reign. For both men the title is key for them to move towards divisional super fights against the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez. Nor fights however the bout promises to be an excellent show case of ring craft and boxing IQ, between two smart, talented veterans each looking to prove they still have a lot left in the tank.
The talented Ioka was a stand out amateur in Japan before making his professional debut in 2009, aged 20. Within 18 months of his debut he had claimed the Japanese Light Flyweight title and just a fight later he dethroned long reigning WBC Minimumweight champion Oleydong Sithsamerchai, in just his 7th professional bout. In the years that followed he proved that wasn't a fluke victory against a weight drained fighter as he has gone on to unify the WBC and WBA titles at 105lbs, whilst also winning the WBA title at Light Flyweight and Flyweight and the WBO Super Flyweight title. During his career he has already notched up a legendary resume with wins over not only Oleydong but also Juan Hernandez Navarrete, Akira Yaegashi, Felix Alvarado, Juan Carlos Reveco, McWilliams Arroyo, Aston Palicte, Jeyvier Cintron, Kosei Tanaka and Francisco Rodriguez Jr.
In the ring Ioka is a very clever fighter. He's always been smart and it's been the boxing brain that has allowed him to move through the weights and have success. He's smart, has excellent timing and whilst he's not the biggest, strongest, faster or heaviest handed he has the skills and ring craft to have success against fighters through out the lower classes. He picks shots well, he can take a good shot, and he can mix things up. He can box, he can fight, he can counter puncher and he can pressure, and with Ismael Salas working with him he seems to have brilliant game plans developed for each opponent. Great examples of that can be seen in his recent bouts as we saw him fight as a body attacked orientated pressure fighter against the taller, quicker Jeyvier Cintron and a smart counter puncher against the quicker smaller Kosei Tanaka. Durign his career Ioka has spent more than a decade at the top of the sport, though there has been poor performances from him, and his last two were poor, by his very high standards, though there is a feeling that he simply couldn't get up for those bouts, and as a result wasn't at 100%, this bout however, we expect him at his best.
The 40 year old Donnie Nietes has been a professional since 2003 with the Filipino have had an excellent career, over a prolonged time period. For much of his career he has been the #3 Filipino, behind Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, and despite being over-shadowed there no doubting he is a future hall of famer himself. He won his first title in 2007, when he claimed the WBO Minimum title, and he would defend the belt 4 times before claiming the WBO title at 108lbs, in 2011. He notched 9 defenses of the title before moving up to Flyweight and winning the IBF title, in 2017, and then moving up to Super Flyweight in 2018, winning the WBO title there in his second shot at the belt. As mentioned though he gave up that title and wasted around 2 and a half years of his career before returning to the ring last year.
Like Ioka, it's best to say that Nietes is an intelligent, smart boxer. He's smooth, relaxed in the ring, and excellent at picking the right shot. His experience, which has seen him facing a veritable who's who of the lower weights, has seen him have success against fighters with a huge mixture of styles, and he can tweak game plans for every style. Defensively he's smart, tight and hard to catch clean. Offensively he's very smart, finding ways to land clean. As he's gotten older he has slowed, and we saw him struggle with the 10 round distance last time out against Norbelto Jimenez, but he still has that world class talent to be a nightmare for many fighters. Sadly though father time is unbeaten in this sport, and given his age we do see this as a huge ask for him. Especially against someone who has taken the upcoming bout personally.
We expect this bout to be fought at a very, very high level. Both men will be adapting on the fly, round by round. We expect to see Nietes make a really good start. For 3 or 4 rounds he will be able to go pretty much evens with Ioka, however we're expecting Ioka to take control in the middle portion of the bout, as Nietes begins to show his age. By round 9 or 10 we expect to see Ioka in a comfortable lead, and we wouldn't be surprised at all to see him really go after Nietes in the championship rounds, trying to not just beat the Filipino, but send him into retirement with his first stoppage loss. Given Ioka has taken this bout personally, we really do see him trying to hurt Nietes, and body shots in the final rounds, could well be the key he needs to stopping the Filipino icon.
Prediction - TKO12 Ioka
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On New Year’s Eve, we will witness a clash of 3 division World Champions, as Kazuto Ioka and Donnie Nietes will square off for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight World Championship, in Macau, China.
Kazuto Ioka (23-1/13 KOs) is without a doubt one of the best Japanese boxers of the last decade. He proved his worth quite early, back in his amateur days, amassing an impressive record of 95 wins in 105 bouts, including two All Japan championships, two Inter-High School titles as well as a four time winner of the National Sports Festival.
Turned pro in 2009, he showcased his amateur pedigree as he dispatched world title contender Takashi Kunishige, in just his third fight. Ioka then went on to win the vacant Japanese Light Flyweight title after he TKOed Masayoshi Segawa, only 18 months after his debut.
On February of 2011, Ioka’s first major test arrived when he challenged the unbeaten Kittipong Jaigrajang (35-0 at the time) for the WBC Minimumweight World Championship. Jaigrajang was champion for 4 years and had 6 title defenses under his belt. The Japanese hopeful went toe to toe with the veteran Thai champion, even knocking him down as early as in the second round and then once more in the fifth, with a lethal left body blow, sealing the deal and becoming the world champion at only 21 years of age. Ioka defended his championship twice the same year, against Juan Hernandez Navarrete and Veerawut Yuthimitr.
On June 20 of 2012, he was involved in a unification bout with the WBA champion and fellow rising Japanese star, Akira Yaegashi. Their careers shared many similarities. Yaegashi was also an accomplished amateur, with a record of 56-14, and had also won the National Sports Festival, back in 2002. Both men brought their A game that night, knowing what was at stake. An epic back and forth affair, that brought the fans to their feet, ended with Ioka earning the unanimous decision and leaving Osaka with two world championships.
Having conquered the Minimumweight division, Ioka decided to move up a weight class and faced Jose Alfredo Rodriguez for the vacant WBA Light Flyweight World Title (Regular version). Rodriguez was the former interim WBA champion, with 28 wins and only 1 decision loss. The Japanese prodigy systematically picked him apart with body shots and hooks, dropping him thrice, for the win as well as for his second divisional world title reign.
Ioka enjoyed another long run with the belt, marking 3 successful defenses over Phissanu Chimsunthom, former world champion Ekkawit Songnui and Felix Alvarado (current IBF Light Flyweight World Champion). Since the Roman Gonzalez fight never took place (WBA Super champion) Ioka vacated his title and debuted in the Flyweight division, where he tasted defeat for the first time as a pro, as he failed to capture the IBF title from Amnat Ruenroeng, in a very evenly contested bout. Ironically, Ioka had lost again to Amnat in the past, back in their amateur days, when they met at the semi-finals of the 2008 King's Cup, an annual boxing tournament held in Thailand.
The 2 division world champion came back even more determined, beating Pablo Carrillo and knocking out former interim world champion Jean Piero Perez with a thunderous right straight, within the span of three months, thus earning another opportunity at a Flyweight World Title, this time against the WBA Regular champion, Juan Carlos Reveco. After 12 action packed rounds, the Japanese superstar finally became a 3 division champion. Since the fight was very close on the judges’ scorecards, a rematch was set on New Year’s Eve of 2015. As usual, Ioka’s body work was the key factor, stopping Reveco in the eleventh round, in what otherwise was once again a close call.
As WBA Flyweight World Champion, he made five successful title defenses, over the likes of Roberto Domingo Sosa, Juan Carlos Reveco (as mentioned above), Keyvin Lara, Yutthana Kaensa and Nare Yianleang. His toughest one had to be against Kaensa. The interim WBA World Champion, with a perfect record of 16-0, shocked everyone when he knocked Ioka down, with a fast right counter hook, in the second round. Ioka had never been dropped before in his pro career. Kaensa kept the pressure on for the majority of the fight, giving the champion a bigger challenge than he expected. The tables turned however as Ioka put the Thai boxer down with a liver shot in the seventh round and proceeded to finish him off by punishing his body even further.
His sixth defense was scheduled to take place on December 31st of 2017 but due to getting married and reportedly falling out with his father and promoter, Kazunori Ioka, he chose to retire and vacate his belt.
Almost 17 months later, Ioka returned to active competition, this time at Super Flyweight and with a new goal in mind: to become a 4 division world champion. He immediately challenged McWilliams Arroyo for the WBC Silver Flyweight Title. Arroyo, much like Ioka, also had an extensive amateur career, winning the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games, the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2009 AIBA World Boxing Championships, including victories over 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Yan Bartelemí and 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist Nyambayaryn Togstsogt. With no signs of ring-rust, the former multiple time world champion took control of the fight from the opening round and never let up. After 10 rounds and one knocked out in the third, the Japanese superstar was back on track. It’s worth mentioning that this was Ioka’s first fight in the U.S. as well as his first fight outside of Japan, as a pro. Now, only one man stands between him and his dream and that’s non other than fellow 3 division champion Donnie Nietes.
Donnie Nietes (41-1/23 KOs) a 15 year veteran of the sport, began his career back in 2003, amassing 21 wins in 25 fights (1 split decision loss and 3 draws) before challenging for his first world title. Nietes fought a 20-0 future WBA champion Somporn Seeta, for the vacant WBO Minimumweight World Championship, in 2007.
An action packed encounter, the Filipino was repeatedly nailing Seeta with body shots and uppercuts through out their match and even managed to drop him with a counter right hook in the fourth round. When the dust had settled, he was crowned the new world champion.
Nietes made four successful title defenses as Minimumweight champion, over Eddy Castro, Eric Ramirez, interim WBO champion Manuel Vargas and future IBF champion Mario Rodriguez, before challenging Ramon Garcia Hirales for the WBO Light Flyweight World Title. It was a smart play from Nietes that saw him consistently wearing Hirales down. The Mexican fought back for a while but, as the match progressed, he was too exhausted to do anything significant. In the end, “The Snake” was a 2 division world champion and embarked on a long championship reign that lasted almost 5 years, boasting an impressive number of nine defenses.
His biggest victories as Light Flyweight champion were against Moises Fuentes, Sammy Gutierrez, Francisco Rodriguez Jr. and Raul Garcia. Specifically, he fought Fuentes twice during his run with the belt, as their initial meeting ended in a majority draw. Prior to their rematch, Nietes first dispatched former interim WBA Minimumweight and WBC Silver Light Flyweight champion Sammy Gutierrez.
The Filipino chased his opponent relentlessly, dropping him twice in just the opening round. Gutierrez tried to turn it to a brawl, but got cracked by a straight right punch to the chin. Fuentes, also a 2 division champion, got his shot again a year later but this time Nietes was far more aggressive than his was before, taking Fuentes by surprise and eventually knocking him out in the ninth. Compared to the previous bouts, the Francisco Rodriguez Jr. and Raul Garcia fights (former WBO & IBF Minimumweight World Champions) were slower and less exciting. At least in his match with Garcia, the pace gradually picked up and even scored two knockdowns.
In 2016, Nietes sought new opportunities as he moved up to Flyweight. His skills were put to test immediately as he faced former WBC Light Flyweight World Champion Edgar Sosa, for the vacant WBO Intercontinental title. Sosa, a well rounded veteran (52-11), had been a long time WBC International and Silver Flyweight champion, giving him the experience factor in this division. This didn’t hinder the Snake at all as he took the fight to the Mexican striker, throwing bombs and some sweet combinations in the last rounds that earned him a very wide unanimous decision and the strap.
About 8 months later, Nietes went up against Komgrich Nantapech for the vacant IBF Flyweight World Championship. Komgrich, despite being a “lesser” opponent, considering the level of competition Nietes had already faced, gave the Filipino a bigger fight than anticipated. His power and speed kept him into the fight until the last round, making him look good against a much better fighter than himself. In the end however, Nietes’ experience came to play, as he kept Nantapech at a safe distance, while peppering him with shots, scoring more on the judges’ scorecards. Once again, Nietes had his arm raised, as he was declared a 3 division champion.
Nietes’ one and only IBF title defense took place earlier this year, in America, when he stopped former WBA Flyweight World Champion Juan Carlos Reveco in the seventh round, after catching him with a right hook, followed by a flurry of body shots and then landing a devastating left uppercut. Reveco could barely stand on his own two feet, leaving his corner no choice but to throw in the towel.
This past September, Nietes had a chance to become a 4 division champion, in less than 2 years. His fight with top ranked Super Flyweight boxer Aston Palicte, for the vacant WBO belt, ended in a split decision draw, a decision that was questioned by many, since Nietes was way busier, landing more punches than Palicte, as well as more accurate ones. As faith would have it, Nietes will once again get another crack at the same price that unfairly escaped his grip, before the year is over, when he collides with Kazuto Ioka in Macau.
This is a fight of epic proportions. We are talking about two men that have been world champions for the majority of their careers, winning the gold in three different divisions. Their paths have been quite similar and an encounter was only inevitable. Ioka as well as Nietes are strong, intelligent fighters, with a tone of experience. Which one will have the edge here? Ioka is the more aggressive boxer, with a higher KO percentage, overall and in championship matches only. Nietes is the more conservative one, as he doesn’t go for the kill as often as his rival, but knows how to take his time and how to surgically pick his foes apart. Ioka’s excellent body work should be taken into consideration, as it has been his most important weapon through out his career. Nietes also likes to attack the body, creating openings so he can strike the head. The speed has to be on Ioka’s side. In spite of his long absence, his combinations were as fast and accurate as before he retired, whereas Nietes has slowed down a bit, as it was evident in the Nantapech bout. On the other hand, the experience sides with Nietes, as he has been involved in 47 matches in the past 15 years. All in all, this is clearly anyone’s game, which is the reason why this fight is so exciting. Who will leave Macau a Super Flyweight champion for the first time? Tune in on NYE to find out!
All Filipino world title fights are rare, in fact the IBF Super Flyweight world title bout earlier this year between Jerwin Ancajas and Jonas Sultan was the first in over 90 years! Like a bus, you wait for an age and then two come around at once. This coming Saturday we'll get another all Filipino world title bout, as Donnie Nietes (41-1-4, 23) and Aston Palicte (24-2, 20) battle for the now vacant WBO Super Flyweight title.
Of the two fighters Nietes is the more well known and the more highly regarded. His long, 46 fight, career began more than 15 years ago and yet the 36 year old “Ahas” is still looking sensational. He's avoided taking much damage, he a very young 36 and is someone who has carved out a really brilliant career for himself. That career has seen him claim the WBO Minimumweight title, the WBO Light Flyweight title, the WBA Flyweight title and is now going for the WBO Super Flyweight title.
Whilst titles and a the numbers on a fighter's record alone doesn't prove how good someone is it's worth noting that the competition Nietes has faced is world class. He won his first world title in September 2007, defeating Pornsawan Porpramook and since then he has scored wins over Jesus Silvestre, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Moises Fuentes, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Edgar Sosa and Juan Carlos Reveco to name just a few of Niete's victims.
Unlike many fighters who go through the lower weights, such as Roman Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue, Nietes' isn't a big puncher. Instead he relies almost solely on ring craft, skills and experience. Defensively he's very smart, with intelligent counter punching, and very sharp crisp shots. Technically he's a boxing genius. He's not been blessed with a frightening power, or freakish size, but he's got such a high ring IQ that's he's going to be a very hard fighter to beat. That is unless father time gets to him before he gets into the ring, and father time certainly didn't seem close to him in February when he dominated Reveco.
Whilst Nietes is a 3-weight world champion this will actually be Palicte's first world title bout, but the 27 year old will feel very confident that he has the size, speed and power to over-come Nietes. He will have several inches of both height and reach advantage over Nietes as well as the clear youth advantage, but will be stepping up significantly in class. He doesn't have the notable names on his record, with his best wins being over Vergilio Silvano, Oscar Cantu, John Mark Apolinario and Jose Alfredo Rodriguez. He should also have had a win over Junior Grandos, but the judges favoured the home town man in a very poor decision.
In the ring Palicte is a bit of a rough diamond. He's very exciting, very heavy handed and throws devastating combinations. Offensively he's great to watch however he can be out boxed, and if fighters force him to move they can cause him real problems, with his less than amazing footwork, and he also drops his hands a little too much when he's throwing punches. Those flaws are things a fighter can get away at the Oriental level, but at world level he will have to tighten up, a lot, especially against someone with the ring craft of Nietes.
If Palicte can use his reach, youth and size he has got a chance to keep Nietes on the outside, but that hasn't usually been Palicte's style. If Palicte is looking to get inside then he really needs to hope his power will be too much for Neites. If it is, and if he can land early and get Nietes's respect, he has a real chance. It should however be noted that Nietes is good on the inside, and will likely be able to hold his own with Palicte. It really comes down to whether the youngster can hurt the old lion.
If this is fought as a boxing match we feel like the skills of Nietes will simply be too much for Palicte and his defensive flaws. If Palicte can however hurt Nietes, set him off his game early on and grind him down, whilst fighting through the counters. That's easier said than done, and given the defensive failings of Palicte we don't think he'll manage to do it often enough. There will be huge moments for Palicte, but we suspect he'll come up short and lose a clear, but hard fought, 12 round decision. If that happens then Nietes joins Roman Gonzalez and Leo Gamez as the only men to claim world titles in the 4 smallest weight classes.
The Flyweight division is one of the most interesting at the moment, with a really nice mix of fighters at the top. We have the destructive Daigo Higa, the crude but gutsy Sho Kimura and the highly experienced Donnie Nietes. The division might not have a huge amount of star power, but it does have a real nice mix of fighters and has the potential to have a huge year in 2018, with the likes of Kosei Tanaka looking to make a mark there.
This coming Saturday we get the chance to see a really interesting match up in the division as the aforementioned Donnie Nietes (40-1-4, 22) makes his first defense of the IBF title and looks to extend his claim of being the division's elder statesman. In the opposite corner to Nietes will be another veteran, Juan Carlos Reveco (39-3, 19), who will be hunting a third world title to add to his long list of achievements.
Aged 35 Nietes is a bit of a freak for the little weights. He is, for all intents, an ancient fighter and debuted as a professional way back in 2003 within 17 months he had gone 11-0-1, before losing very controversially to Angky Angkotta in Indonesia, whilst being outweighed by 6lbs. Ever since that loss, back in 2004, Nietes has gone unbeaten running up a 29-0-3 record. That is even more impressive when you consider he has fought a huge number of those bouts at world level, and claimed world titles at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight and Flyweight, establishing himself as one of the best little men of his generation and one of the best Filipino fighters ever.
During his 32 fight unbeaten run Nietes has fought in 16 world title bouts, going 15-0-1 (6). On paper those numbers are really good, and even more so when you consider he has beaten fighters like Pornsawan Porpramook, Jesus Silvestre, Moises Fuentes and Francisco Rodriguez Jr . What has helped him have such longevity is his high boxing IQ, excellent skills and real understanding of himself and his opponents. He is a really smart boxing who doesn't excel in any physical area but does everything brilliantly. He can box at range and up close, and dictates the tempo and range of a bout brilliantly. He hits hard enough to get the respect of opponents, he's accurate and although he can be out worked be is a real thinking man's fighter who appears to have developed a lot from his experience.
Reveco has also become one of the lower weights veterans, and at 34 he's not much younger than Nietes and debuted just a year later than the Filipino. The talented Reveco raced out to the WBA Light Flyweight title, winning the belt in his 16th bout by stopping Thai Nethra Sasiprapa. His reign was however a short one, and he would lose the title in his second defense as he was out pointed by Frenchman Brahim Asloum, in what was Reveco's first bout outside of Argentina. Within a year of the loss to Asloum we saw Reveco claim the WBA “interim” Light Flyweight title, before moving up in weight and winning the WBA “interim” Flyweight title. That interim title was later upgraded to the full Flyweight title , which he would defend against the likes of Masayuki Kuroda, Ricardo Nunez, Felix Avarado and Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep. Those wins showed that Reveco was a talented, tough and smart fighter with top class body shots and and a real gutsy desire. He also held his own in a very narrow defeat to Kazuto Ioka in April 2015, in a very close bout. A rematch with Ioka however saw the Japanese fighter show a new maturity and stop Reveco with a really stellar performance.
Since lose to Ioka at the end of 2017 we've seen Reveco go 3-0 with a notable win last time out against Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking to earn a crack at the IBF title. He has proven there is still something left in the tank, and against Eaktwan we saw Reveco put on a brilliant performance, using his hand speed, his movement, and his skills to avoid an all out war with the naturally bigger Thai. He will need to use those traits, along with his trademark body punching, if he's to stand a chance here.
With both Nietes and Reveco getting on in age it's hard to know what either man really has left. There is a chance that both have one last great performance, there is also a chance that father time gets to either man. A few years ago this bout would have been something really special, but now, whilst it's still an excellent fight it does feel like the loser will be sent into retirement. That may mean that both men pull out all the stops, but it could also mean neither man has the fire, speed or snap they once had. Going on recent performances we do favour Nietes, who has avoided the wars that Reveco has had, to come out on top, but could certainly see the enducated body shots of Reveco giving the Filipino real problems.
We think this bout could have been a classic 3 years ago, had Nietes moved up back then, or even down at 108lbs. We still still think it'll be a really, really good fight,but can't get over the fact that that they have a combined age of almost 70, and both will have seen better days.
It wasn't that long ago that the Flyweight division looked like the best division in the sport. Sadly a lot of the top Flyweights from a couple of years ago moved up in weight, giving us a super strength Super Flyweight division but essentially leaving the Flyweight division a bit of a mess and a division lacking in terms of depth.
Despite being a mess the Flyweight division is, slowly, taking shape and we've had some notable bouts recently, with more just around the corner. The next of those to take place will see former 2 weight champion Donnie Nietes (39-1-4, 22) battle with Thailand's Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking (22-3, 15) to fill the IBF title vacancy. For Nietes the bout could see him becoming a 3-weight champion and solidifying his place as a Filipino legend whilst a win for the Thai would put him on the proverbial boxing map and help make him a fixture on the international boxing scene.
Aged 34, and turning 35 in just a few weeks, Nietes is a properly seasoned veteran, but who who is scarcely showing signs of slow down. That's despite having a career that began back in 2003 and has seen him fight consistently in world title bouts since September 2007, when he claimed the WBO Minimumweight title. During his time at world level he has beaten a who's who of the lower weights, including Pornsawan Porpramook, Manuel Vargas, Jesus Silvestre, Mario Rodriguez, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Moises Fuentes, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Raul Garcia and Edgar Sosa. He has compiled an amazing 14-0-1 record in world title fights and notched top tier wins in the Philippines, Mexico and US in a career which will almost certainly lead to a place in the HOF.
In the ring we've seen Nietes do it all. At his best he's a counter punching genius but he can fight on the front foot when he wants to, has under-rated power, under-rated speed and is not only technically sound but also has a very high boxing IQ. Given his age it seems clear he is now wanting to add to his legacy, and potentially chase some career defining wins, to add to his strong resume. He is however a fighter who has, at times, looked lazy, lacked the killer instinct and been happy to go through the motions, as he did last time out against Sosa. At his best he could well be one of the best little men in the sport, though failure to face the best Japanese fighters of his era is certainly something that will hang over his head given his long reign on top.
It's clear that Nietes can still go hard and fast for 12 rounds, though he has avoided really damaging bouts for the most part and is one of the freshest 34 year olds in the sport. Even then father time does take it's toll and it's unclear when Nietes will “get old”.
Whilst Nietes is well known at world level, and has long been on the fringes of the pound-for-pound lists with the real hardcore fans, the same cannot be said for Eaktawan, also known as Komgrich Nantapech. In fact the 27 year old Thai is a total unknown outside of Asia, and is hardly known outside of homeland. That's, in part, due to fighting under alternative names early in his career as well as having very little success outside of Thailand. In fact his first three losses, in 2012 to Albert Pagara and in 2013 to Sho Ishida and Froilan Saludar, were all fought under the name Tawanrung Eausampan. Since those losses however he has began to climb through the rankings and looked like a genuine talent with lovely offensive skills and combinations.
Although Eaktawan has shown some real skills, beating the likes of Lionel Legada, Takayuki Okumoto and Jenny Boy Boca there are flaws in his game. He is very much an offensive fighter, who has throws eye catching combinations, looks very relaxed and very fluid in the ring. Sadly he is defensively flawed, leaving openings for counters punches and a slightly open guard. Against a great counter puncher like Nietes he could be punished for his flaws. Saying that however he is likely to be the naturally bigger and stronger fighter against Nietes, and is obviously the younger, less damaged fighter. It's worth noting that his only losses have been above the Flyweight limit, with two losses coming at Bantamweight, and he is clearly a tough fighter.
The Thai is stepping up massively for this fight and although he has a number of advantages the question will be whether he has the skills to beat Neites. The obvious answer is that he doesn't have the skills needed to over-come someone as talented as the Filipino icon. However this is a niggling feeling that Eaktawan is better than his record suggests, and that he has the energy, young and toughness to make this a very tough assignment for Neites. We know that Nietes will be the favourite, and should win, but there is a niggling feeling that the Thai has got the timing right here, and could well spring one of the biggest upsets of 2017.
The boxing world is full of undeserving world champions, getting the press and plaudits due to reaching “a” summit, often for a short amount of time. Fighters like Charles Martin, Oswaldo Novoa, Jose Argumedo and Giovanni De Carolis have all had the honour of being a “world champion” recently, and yet non of them are particularly well proven, or , in the case of Novoa and Martin, managed to keep their titles for particularly long.
Along with those undeserving champions are the deserving champions, the fighters who take on all challengers, defend their belts for years and sadly get over-looked by the press and general fan base. One such fighter is Filipino icon Donnie Nietes (37-1-4, 21), who is a 2-weight world champion, with a stellar record, a splattering of impressive wins, an 11 year unbeaten run and an incredible 13-0-1 (5) record in world title fights.
Nietes, the current WBO Light Flyweight champion, returns to the ring this coming Saturday as he looks to extend that run and record yet another successful defense as he takes on former world champion Raul Garcia (38-3-1, 23).
Interestingly whilst the fight could see Nietes extend his world title reign it is a fighter that sees Garcia entering the bout looking for revenge, as Nietes holds a win over Raul's twin brother Ramon Garcia-Hirales.
At his best Nietes is a wonderful chameleon in the ring. He can box, he can fight and he can be a cerebral counter puncher, and more impressively he can switch between the styles fluidly during a fight.
Trying to explain how good Nietes is, to those who haven't seen him, is really difficult. However going though his record we see wins over the likes of Pornsawan Porpramook, who was then 20-0, Manuel Vargas, Jesus Silvestre, Mario Rodriguez, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Sammy Gutierrez, Moises Fuentes, Francisco Vargas and Francisco Rodriguez Jr. The names might not mean a lot to those who don't follow the lower weights but the fighters are solid world class fighters, though some were beyond their best.
As for Garcia the Mexican is a veteran in the ring, and like Nietes, is a battle hardened warrior, with wins over Florante Condes and Sammy Gutierrez. Sadly whilst he is a veteran the last few years has seen him meandering through regional level opposition. In fact his last 5 bouts, dating back more than 3 years, have seen him face completely inept opposition. Go back a fight further we saw him come up short against Pedro Guevara, albeit in a very close fight. Incidentally two, of Garcia's 3 losses, have been close with one to Moises Fuentes seeing the two men being separated by just 2 points on all 3 cards.
At his best Garcia is a real handful, for anyone, in the division. He's tough, heavy handed, and combines physical strength with solid skills. That's not to say he's a sensational fighter but certainly a handful for anyone. Unfortunately we suspect he's far removed from his best and will instead be made to look second rate by Nietes, who will continue to be one of the sports most over-looked and under-rated world champions.
It's fair to say that we have a lot of really good bouts through out October, with a number of world title bouts looking really good on paper. Sadly however one one of those titles bouts sticks out like a sore thumb in terms of being genuinely disappointing. That's the WBO Light Flyweight title bout between long term champion Donnie Nietes (36-1-4, 21) and the relatively unknown Juan Alejo (21-3, 13). The bout, Nietes's US debut, is clearly to allow the champion to make a statement to US fans who may not have yet seen him in action.
For many fans Alejo is a real unknown, even for fans of the lower weights. Sadly his record, or rather his opposition, is the reason he's so unknown, and why we certainly see this a very disappointing mismatch.
Alejo began his career 0-3, those 3 bouts came against his most notable opposition with one loss coming to world title contender Jose Cabrera and the other two against one time Roman Gonzalez foe Jesus Limones.
Since those 3 bouts Alejo has run up 21 straight wins but the competition has been dire with the most notable name on his record by Jesus Faro, who was easily beaten by Yu Kimura just a few weeks ago. Sadly that level of competition really hasn't qualified, or prepared, Alejo for a world title bout, especially not against a genuine world champion like Nietes.
Sadly for us Alejo's low level of competition has made it very difficult to track down footage of the Mexican. From his record it seems like he can punch a bit but digging deeper into his opponents even his power seems questionable. In one way the lack of footage may help Alejo, with Nietes's team perhaps struggling to get a good read on the Mexican. The reality however is that footage of him being scarce isn't a positive sign of his ability and that probably tells a story of it's own.
Whilst we know little in regards to Alejo we do know a lot about Nietes with the defending champion being one of the staples of the lower weights divisions. In fact Nietes has been a world champion for 8 years across the Minimumweight and Light Flyweight divisions. His run at world level has seen him go 13-0-1, avenging the draw with a stoppage win in a rematch.
Nietes's record tells us a lot about how good he is. His one loss, to Angky Angkotta, is a very disputed and controversial one from back in 2004 and since then he has gone 25-0-3 with wins against the likes of Pornsawan Porpramook, Manuel Vargas, Jesus Silvestre, Mario Rodriguez, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Felipe Salguero, Sammy Gutierrez, Moises Fuentes and Francisco Rodriguez Jr. That might not be the sort of record needed to get into the HOF but it is a very strong resume from a man who has been the forgotten staple of the Filipino boxing scene.
In the ring there is very little Nietes can't do. Naturally he's a very confident counter-puncher, one of the best in the lower weights. Despite being an incredible counter puncher he can fight as an all round boxer and has shown an increasing belief in his punch power, in fact he's stopped 4 of his last 5 foes something that's very different to what the numbers of his record would suggest. He's not perfect but he doesn't do a lot of things wrong and it's hard to see anyone at 108lbs being favoured over him. Saying that however he is 33, and getting on for a lower weight fighter.
Given what we do know Nietes is more proven, he is in great form and looking to impress an audience that may not yet have been won over by him. He will also be hoping to make a statement ahead of a potential show down with Roman Gonzalez, who fights Brian Viloria on the same night. With that in mind we're expecting to see Nietes do a demolition job on Alejo who has been deliberately selected to make a statement again, and is unlikely to last more than 6 rounds.
The first “big” Filipino fight for us this month comes at Light Flyweight where WBO champion Donnie Nietes (35-1-4, 21) defends his belt against mandatory challenger Francisco Rodriguez Jr (17-2-1, 11). Whilst this is a mandatory title fight it is also one of the very best bouts that could be made at Light Flyweight, a division that has often been over-looked.
Nietes has been one of the most impressive lower-weight fighters over the last few years. He first became a world champion back in September 2007, at Minimumweight, and has held a world title every since. On paper his record is impressive with just a single, controversial, loss in 40 fights and in reality he's proven he can cope with anyone.
There are some who will suggest that Neites' competition has been poor over the years but wins over the likes of Pornsawan Porpramook, Manuel Vargas, Jesus Silvestre and Moises Fuentes are solid wins.
In the ring Nietes can do it all and has evolved over he years. At his best he's a phenomenal counter puncher who can stand in the pocket, land laser like shots and make opponents pay for every mistake. At other times he's a frustrating guy to watch, who relies on his natural ability and sleep walks through fights, as he did in his first meeting with Moises Fuentes. In recent times he's not only been a sharp counter puncher but he's been one who has been making statements with 4 successive stoppages against decent Mexican opponents.
A big question regarding Nietes, and one of the few that will linger over his head going in to the future, is his age. He's already 33 and with 40 bouts, 274 rounds, on the clock he may find himself getting old over-night. He's not shown his age yet but we know fighters in the lower weights do age suddenly and Nietes may go from ultra-sharp to “on the slide” almost in a single fight.
As for for the challenger, Rodriguez will be looking to build on a sensational 2014. He came from absolutely nowhere to be in the running for the hardcore fans Fighter of the Year as he unified both the WBO and IBF Minimumweight titles in stunning back-to-back performances and, were it not for a draw against Jomar Fajardo we'd have had no complaints with anyone voting for Rodriguez. The year saw him fight 4 times though he first came to our attention when he battered Merlito Sabillo to claim the WBO Minimumweight title just a few months later he over-came Katsunari Takayama to add the IBF title to his collection, in a bout later dubbed by many as the 2014 FOTY.
In the ring Rodriguez has had some mixed fortunes. At 105lbs he seemed to be really big and really strong with an aggressive attitude that saw him effectively fight as a bully. When he's fought at a higher weight, as he did in both in 2 fights with Fajardo, he has struggled to make his strength and power count. From those results it does seem like Fajardo isn't really ready to move up too high, though of course they were fought well above the Light Flyweight limit. At 108lbs he may well be more effective than he was against Faardo.
Aged 21 Rodriguez has a really, really bright future ahead of him. He's already been mixing with some genuinely elite level fighters, such as Roman Gonzalez, and has scored two huge wins. One more, over Nietes, would put Rodriguez on the verge of becoming one of the most accomplished youngster fighters in the sport. Although accomplished we do wonder how Rodriguez fares when the crowd want to see him beat, and when he's facing a real technician like Nietes. Against Sabillo and Takayama we saw Rodrgiuez beat fighters, warriors and men who traded with him, that won't be the case here.
In their ring we're expecting a little bit of a bull Vs matador. Rodriguez will know that to win on the road he needs to clearly win the bout and this will make him even more aggressive than usual. The extra aggressiveness will give Nietes chances and the Filipino will make the most of the opening to land crisp and clean straights and uppercutts. If Rodriguez can walk through the, then we wouldn't be shocked to see the fight become an all out war of attrition. If they take their toll however and Rodriguez slows then we see Nietes taking a relatively comfortable decision win.
The interesting scenario is if they do end up going to war. We think that would favour Rodriguez though he really will need to win the rounds clearly to get the win...and we don't think he'll manage that.
We wouldn't be shocked if this was the fight of the month, but really don't see the title changing hands, even if the fight end sup being one that the neutral would give to the visitor.
The Light Flyweight division has been a strange one in recent years with fighters often doing little than using it as a stop gap en route to bigger and better things. Fighters like Naoya Inoue, Roman Gonzalez, Kazuto Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco have all been champions there recently before heading to pastures new. The only constant at the top of the division for the last few years has been the under-rated and over-looked Filipino icon Donnie Nietes (34-1-4, 20).
Nietes, who climbed atop of the division in 2011 has managed to rack up reign lasting more than 3 years and has featured 5 defense of the title, more than any other active champion in the division, in fact they have a combined 0 defenses!
The Filipino returns to the ring at the end of March as he looks to continue his light Flyweight reign and record his 11th total world title defense, combing reigns as Light Flyweight and Minimumweight champion. He also looks to continue his sensational form against Mexican opponent as he takes on Gilberto Parra (19-2-0-1, 17), in what will be his 5th straight fight against a Mexican foe.
For many the Light Flyweight division is a weak one. That's not a view we really share, our opinion is that it's one that has undergone a lot of changes and, as a result, has a lot of over-looked talent, such as Ryoichi Taguchi, Ryo Miyazaki and Paipharob Kokietgym. It's hard to argue however that Nietes, when he's on form, isn't the stand out fighter. He's defensively very good, has a wonderful arsenal of punches, under-rated power and brilliant timing. The only things lacking at times is his work rate or sometime his gameplan but in term of ability he is sensational.
Although not typically a big puncher Nietes has been hurting fighters recently and not only is he on a great run of results but he has also stopped his last 3 opponents. Included in those was a dominant victory against Moises Funetes last May in what really was one of the stand out performances of Nietes's career against a man we actually thought could have been a real threat.
Whilst Nietes is the widely regarded #1 in the division Para is just seen as just another challenger, the final challenger in many ways before Nietes battles former unified Minimumweight champion Francisco Rodriguez Jr.
On paper Parra looks like a major puncher however his record is padded to say the least. He has yet to score a notable victory and in fact his only fight with a worth while opponent saw him come up short against Martin Tecuapetla, who has himself suffered a recent loss to Milan Melindo, a stable mate of Nietes.
Footage of Para is also less than impressive with little to suggest that he can fight at this level. He can puncher against lesser level fighters but we've never seen him do it against a higher calibre fighter before. In fact we're completely unsold on his power and seen him look crude, wild swinging, wide and terrible open. He has decent hand speed but takes much of the speed away from his own shots by being so wild and wide.
Whilst Parra does look dangerous at a lower level he also looks liek a made to order opponent for a clever fighter like Nietes. We suspect the wide shots of Parra will merely leave him open and he'll be countered almost at will by the talented Filipino. Whilst Nietes isn't a big puncher he's an accurate puncher and accurate counters will take their toll over time. We suspect they'll be enough to see off challenger inside the distance with Nietes managing to record a 4th straight stoppage victory.
(Image courtesy of ALA Promotions)
When you talk to a typical boxing fan about the Philippines they rush to tell you how good Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire are. If you talk to a Filipino fight fan however there are numerous other names that get mentioned including that of 2-weight world champion Donnie Nietes (33-1-4, 19) who is without a doubt the most proven fighter currently playing his trade in the Philippines. Not only is he fighting in his homeland but he is doing so without the plaudits given to his more famous compatriots who are getting big money from US TV to fight.
This weekend we see Nietes returning to the ring in an attempt to record his fifth defense of the WBO Light Flyweight title and moving his total world title defenses to 9 defenses after previously having defended the WBO Minimumweight title 4 times and in the opposite to the Filipino will be Mexico's Carlos Velarde (26-3-1, 14), a man fighting in his second world title bout.
For those who haven't yet seen Nietes he is a technically well schooled boxer-puncher who looks absolutely amazing when he's fighting at his pace and in full flow. At other times however he looks labored and fights as if he thinks he's going to walk bouts just because he's got natural talent. The two different sides of Nietes were seen in his two bouts with Moises Fuentes. The first of the bouts saw Nietes loading up on shots and being dragged into a real struggle with Fuentes who got inside, out worked Nietes and slowed with body shots in what ended up being a highly controversial draw. Just 14 months later Nietes dominated Fuentes and stopped him in 9 rounds in what was one of the best performances of his career.
Through his 38 fight career Nietes has scored numerous notable wins over the likes of Pornsawan Porpramook, Manuel Vargas, Jesus Silvestre, Mario Rodriguez, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Moises Fuentes and Sammy Gutierrez all of whom have been in and around the world level for years. We're not suggesting that Nietes on the pound-for-pound lists but he is very over-looked and has the skills the really do impress when he's fighting to his potential.
Mexico's 24 year old Velarde is an interesting but limited fighter who turned professional aged 16 and has struggled when he has stepped up in class losing his first major step up in 5 rounds to Jesus Silvestre in 2009 and then losing to Ryo Miyazaki in a WBA Minimumweight title last year, suffering a KO of the Year contender in the process. Whilst he has sadly lost his two most notable contests to date he has scored a handful of wins including a decision over recent world champion Oswaldo Novoa and a win over Jose Argumedo.
In the ring Velarde fighters in an exciting manner. He comes forward, applies a lot of pressure and loves going to the body whilst fighting on the inside. He's not the most poweful or the quickest but he is very fun to watch. Sadly the risks he takes to apply his pressure is often his downfall as his defense is poor to say the least and he can be countered relatively easily by a half decent fighter.
Before this bout was made Nietes was given a choice between Velarde or Saul Juarez. We suspect that Velarde was chosen due to his style which is fun, but open and it's likely that that openness will leave Nietes with great big holes to exploit time and time against until he eventually stops Velarde in what we suspect will be an entertaining but 1-sided contest that makes Nietes shine like a star without needing to really work hard for the win.
For Nietes we're expecting this will be his last bout at Light Flyweight before he joins the fray at Flyweight adding further to be's most exciting division. We suspect he's intentionally picked a fighter he can look good against so that he can wave good bye to 108lbs in style and we've no real complaint there despite the fact it does leave the division relatively empty for the time being.
(Image courtesy of ALA Boxing)
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.