Nietes move to flyweight put on hold
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - November 19, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - WBO lightflyweight champion Donnie Nietes is postponing his invasion of the flyweight division and will stake his 108-pound title once more in Macau on Feb. 14 before evaluating whether or not he’s ready to pursue bigger prey.

Nietes, 32, stopped Mexican challenger Carlos Velarde to retain his WBO crown at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino Ballroom in Lahug, Cebu City, last Saturday night. That was supposed to be his swan song as a lightflyweight but ALA Promotions owner Tony Aldeguer said there’s no rush to vacate the throne.

“Nietes will stay at 108 but ultimately, will go up to 112 at the right time but not for his next fight,” said Aldeguer. “Styles make fights and Velarde was crowding Nietes to prevent him from throwing combinations. It was a matter of time before Nietes would have knocked him out. Admittedly, though, Nietes was not at his best.”

Nietes had difficulty breaking down Velarde’s defense at the onset but as the bout progressed, began to dominate with vicious body shots. An accidental clash of heads left Velarde with a bad cut over the eye in the seventh round. It was a convenient excuse for the Mexican to raise the white flag before the start of the eighth. The surrender robbed the sellout crowd of the chance to witness a sensational ending to the fight.

While Nietes wasn’t efficient early, Velarde didn’t do much to make him pay. At the end of the fight, two judges Filipino Salven Lagumbay and Masakazu Murase of Japan scored it a shutout, 70-63. The other judge Rose Lacend of Philadelphia had it 68-65 for Nietes. Referee was Robert Byrd, a late replacement for New York’s Samuel Viruet.

Aldeguer’s son Michael, who is ALA Promotions president, reaffirmed that Nietes will remain WBO lightflyweight champion for the meantime. “We have no immediate plans to relinquish,” he said. “What I told (WBO president) Paco (Valcarcel) is that Nietes will go up to 112 if he has a guaranteed fight against (Juan Francisco) Estrada as he is still comfortable at 108.”

Estrada, 24, is the WBO/WBA unified flyweight champion who wrested both titles from Brian Viloria on a split decision in April last year. The Mexican has since repulsed three challengers, Filipinos Milan Melindo and Richie Mepranum and countryman Giovani Segura. Estrada is booked to face Filipino Joebert (Little Pacman) Alvarez of Sultan Kudarat in a non-title tenner in Sonora on Dec. 6.

Aldeguer said he met with Top Rank chairman Bob Arum in Los Angeles recently and they talked about booking Nietes and “Prince” Albert Pagara for Macau on Feb. 14. Also on the Valentines’ Day card will be Chinese flyweight sensation Zou Shiming. “The plan is for Nietes to make another title defense in Macau,” said Aldeguer. “Whether he moves up or not will depend on what’s out there, if there is a need to go up to 112.”

Aside from Estrada, another target for Nietes is WBC flyweight champion Roman (Chocolatito) Gonzalez of Nicaragua. Gonzalez, 27, has a 40-0 record, with 34 KOs, and will defend his WBC crown against Nietes’ ALA stablemate Rocky Fuentes in Yokohama this Saturday. Gonzalez is a former WBA minimumweight and lightflyweight titlist.

Aldeguer said Nietes and Pagara were the outstanding performers in the Pinoy Pride 28 show last Saturday. Pagara, 20, retained his IBF Intercontinental superbantamweight diadem via a unanimous 12-round decision over Mexico’s Raul Hirales. Pagara decked Hirales in the third round and was a runaway winner on points. Judges Ian Scott of New Zealand and Alejandro Lopez Cid of Mexico had it 120-107 and Filipino Gil Co, 119-108, all for Pagara.

Another winner was Milan Melindo who outpointed Mexico’s Saul Juarez in an IBF lightflyweight title eliminator. The victory earned for Melindo a crack at the IBF crown held by Mexico’s Javier Mendoza, a 23-year-old southpaw with a 22-2-1 record, including 18 KOs. Melindo, 28, improved his record to 32-1, with 12 KOs.

Veteran A. J. Banal, 25, also posted a win on points at Thai Maxsaisai Sithsaithong’s expense in the undercard. Not so lucky was former WBO minimumweight champion Merlito Sabillo who was halted by Indonesia’s Faris Nenggo due to a bad cut in the fourth round.

“Milan’s next fight will be for the IBF world title as his fight against Juarez was an eliminator for the No. 1 position,” said Aldeguer. “With A. J.’s performance against a nobody, he is still very far from the level he should be at.” Aldeguer’s father Tony said Milan is ready for another title shot. “We hope to get that chance soon,” he said.

Mendoza claimed the vacant IBF lightflyweight crown on a decision over Ramon Garcia in Tijuana last September. He has now won nine fights in a row, eight by KO, since bowing to Jorge Guerrero on a second round stoppage in 2011. His only other loss was a four-round decision to Manuel Jimenez in 2008. Mendoza has scored 14 of his 18 KOs inside three rounds, with four coming in the first stanza, eight in the second and two in the third.


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