Donnie Nietes & Aston Palicte
Donnie Nietes, Aston Palicte bid for vacant WBO title
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - September 7, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — There won’t be any holding back when two Filipinos clash for the vacant WBO superflyweight title at the Forum in Inglewood, California, on Sunday morning (Manila time) as Donnie Nietes bids for his fourth crown in four divisions and Aston Palicte attempts to join the elite cast of reigning countrymen led by WBA welterweight ruler Sen. Manny Pacquiao.

It will be the fourth world championship fight between two Filipinos in history after Pancho Villa retained his flyweight diadem via a 15-round decision over Clever Sencio at Wallace Field, now Luneta, in 1925, William Magahin turned back Erwin Villaver on a 12-round verdict at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Manila to keep his WBF welterweight throne in 1995 and IBF superflyweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas outpointed Jonas Sultan in Fresno last May. If either Nietes or Palicte scores a knockout, the abbreviated ending will mark the first-ever world title bout between Filipinos to finish inside the distance.

Nietes, 36, said he’s not worried about Palicte’s four-inch height advantage and 2 1/2-inch reach edge. What’s important is defense, a key factor in why Nietes has been unbeaten in his last 33 outings since 2004. The only blemish in Nietes’ record is a disputed split decision loss to Indonesia’s Angky Angkota in Jakarta. “Walang problem ang opensa,” said Nietes. “Ang pinaka-importante ay depensa. May height at lakas si Palicte. Ako naman may depensa at bilis. Kung hindi ka tatamaan, hindi mananalo ang kalaban mo. ‘Yan ang aking philosophy.”

Palicte, 27, said he respects Nietes but it’s his time to shine. “Hindi niya kaya ang suntok ko,” he said. “Ito na ang panahon ko. May advantage ako sa age. Volume punching ang gagawin ko at uutakan ko siya.”

Las Vegas-based international matchmaker Sean Gibbons predicted an easy victory for Nietes. “Guys like Palicte don’t beat a Hall of Fame fighter like Nietes,” he said. “Nietes will outbox Palicte all night. It might not be pretty but Nietes will put on a clinic. It’s game over.”

Gibbons said Palicte’s posture is too stiff and the lack of flexibility makes him an easy target. “It’s about Nietes’ technique and experience,” he continued. “If Nietes feels any kind of pressure, he’ll move and do things to frustrate Palicte. Nietes is the type of fighter who fights his fight and doesn’t care about the crowd. He just does what it takes to win. I remember when he fought (Juan Carlos) Reveco last February, the first four rounds were boring and the crowd booed. Nietes didn’t care, he knew what he was doing. Then, Nietes stepped it up. He cut Reveco’s eye in the sixth and knocked him down in the seventh. Reveco’s corner threw in the towel.”

Gibbons, however, said it’s a question mark if fighting at 115 pounds will make Nietes vulnerable. It’s Nietes’ debut at superflyweight while Palicte has worked in the division for over four years. “Will it make a difference?” asked Gibbons. “Which Nietes will show up for Palicte? He had two close calls in the past. In 2009, Nietes nearly lost to Manuel Vargas in Mexico and won a split decision and in 2013, he was a different fighter when Moises Fuentes held him to a majority draw in Cebu. But all I can say is a Hall of Famer won’t allow his winning streak to end by losing to Palicte.”

Nietes has a 41-4-4 record with 23 KOs while Palicte’s slate is 24-2, with 20 KOs. Former WBC lightflyweight champion Rodel Mayol will be in Palicte’s corner for the fight. With Nietes will be the Villamor brothers Edito and Edmund of the ALA stable and conditioning coach Nick Curson. Nietes said working with Curson, a certified personal trainer with over 15 years of experience, has improved his stamina, added more sock to his punches and fine-tuned his timing.

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