After Nietes, who’s up?
BLEACHER TALK - Rico S. Navarro (The Freeman) - October 31, 2015 - 10:00am

Looks like nothing can stop Cebu Boxing from reaching further heights. The latest and most welcome development of them all is that the World Boxing Organization has named WBO light flyweight champion Donnie Nietes of the ALA Boxing Gym as a “Super Champion” of the 108-pound division. It’s about time he was recognized as one of boxing’s current greatest champions. After all, he has won two world titles in two weight divisions and has been a world champion for the past eight years (and counting). He defended his minimumweight division title for four times, stepped up a weight class, won a second world title at the 109-pound division and has defended this for eight times. And who has he fought in this undefeated run? We have to remember that among these world title fights were wars with former world champions: Moises Fuentes twice, and Francisco Rodriguez, Ramon Garcia Hirales and Manuel Vargas once each. He is currently the longest-reigning Filipino world champion, passing the great Flash Elorde’s record of seven years.

A recognition like this for Nietes is both timely and deserving as it speaks well of how competitive Pinoy Boxing is today. We have no less than the world’s most exciting fighter in Manny Pacquiao, our “pambansang kamao.” Nonito Donaire is slowly but surely making his way back to regaining his world super bantamweight belt. Brian Viloria lost to world pound-for-pound champ Roman Gonzales in a recent world title fight. But who else are out there? Who could be the country’s next world champion?

Hitting our TVs at Pinoy Pride 33 (aside from Nietes) were the Pagara brothers Albert and Jason, and Mark Magsayo. They all won over their opponents via knock-out in an impressive showing in their U.S. debuts and had people talking about them being the future world champions. While they might have a point, this is where I’ll have to say let’s not jump the gun just yet. Those fights at the Stub Hub Center weren’t the fights that they needed before going for a world title fight asap. These were mere tune-up fights needed to break in to the U.S. scene and to give them that much-needed confidence and exposure to the American market. They’ll need to build themselves slowly but surely before going for a world title.

A good indicator to see the country’s next world champs are the ratings of Ring Magazine, considered as the bible of boxing. Ironically, it’s the light flyweight division of champion Nietes that has the most number of Pinoy world contenders. Randy Petalcorin is ranked third by Ring magazine. The others listed are Milan Milendo at #6, Rey Loreto at #8 and Jonathan Taconing at #10. To have five boxers recognized in this list is a feat in itself for the country. We now pray that any one of them wins a world title soon. Prince Albert Pagara is #6 in the Ring Magazine’s super bantamweight division topped by Guillermo Rigondeaux. Nonito Donaire is # 3 on this list while Genesis Servania is at #4. But there seems to be something strange about Servania’s silence of late, agree? Arthur Villanueva is ranked #9 in the super flyweight division. Brian Viloria is ranked third while Johnriel Casimero is #10 in the flyweight division.

The next question to ask is for who among this lot is ripe for a shot at a world championship and if their managers have partnerships or a network with the promoters of the world champions. By process of elimination, Viloria, Melindo, Casimero and Villanueva just came from losses in world title fights so it won’t be too soon that they’ll get a call for another championship fight. Petalcorin had fought as an interim WBA light flyweight champion twice but there’s a need to take out that “interim” tag so he can become a real world champ. When will WBA light flyweight champ Ryoichi Taguchi have to make his mandatory defense against Randy? If Taguchi won his title in December of 2014, isn’t he due for a mandatory before the year ends? Donaire, who has decided to go back to the 122-pound weight class, can’t seem to get a fight with WBA champ Scott Quigg. And neither is he a #1 contender that gives him a mandatory status as a challenger. Taconing and Loreto are ranked #1 and #2, respectively by the WBC but when is WBC champ Pedro Guevara due for a mandatory defense? He fights in a world title fight at the end of the month, and if he wins, his next fight won’t take place until the first quarter of 2016. Albert Pagara may not yet be ripe for a world title fight even if he’s ranked #3 by the International Boxing Federation. The only other chance for the other Pinoys on the list is if they are offered a shot at a world title via a voluntary defense of a world champion. The downside of this is that once you’re in Ring Magazine’s top ten, chances of getting a world title fight via this way is very slim.

Manny Pacquiao is obviously an exemption to this list as he’s on a different level in world boxing. Rankings and rules on mandatory challenges are practically set aside each time he fights but boxing fans and boxers don’t mind it. In fact, boxers line up to fight him just for the amount of money they can earn. The good news is that there’s a date for Pacquiao’s next fight: April 2016.

Kudos once again to Donnie Nietes and here’s wishing all the best for all of the country’s top bets for a world championship.

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