Donnie Nietes: A GOAT
BLEACHER TALK - Rico Navarro (The Freeman) - January 20, 2019 - 12:00am

He has now won four world championships in four weight divisions. He has broken the record for being the longest-reigning Filipino world champion, eclipsing the record of the great Gabriel “Flash” Elorde. He has matched the record of Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire as the only Pinoys to win four title belts in four divisions. He’s now ranked ninth in the pound-for-pound list of Ring Magazine, a first for him. If he’s not one of the greatest Pinoy boxers of all time, then I don’t know how to write. But what makes him a true GOAT is not so much that he has won four championships, but how he has maintained his humble, simple and down-to-earth ways throughout his career. If and when he decides to hang up his gloves, this is what will truly define Donnie “Ahas” Nietes.

Since he isn’t as popular as Pacquiao and Donaire, today will be a good opportunity to look back at what he has accomplished, shall we? He first started out as a janitor at the ALA Gym. Yes, a janitor and not a boxer. One of his main tasks included taking care of ALA Gym’s pet snake, something I don’t think other ALA boxers wanted to take on. But he didn’t have a problem about it. He took up boxing while at the gym and debuted on April 25, 2003, winning over Walter Suaybaguio via unanimous decision. He campaigned in the 105-pound division, working his way up through the ranks slowly but surely in fight cards promoted by ALA Promotions, and which featured his more popular stablemates. In fact, he didn’t even don the ALA trunks early in his career. He had his first break in 2004 when he went to Indonesia to fight, winning two straight fights by knock-out. This was the time when ALA boxers fought in Indonesia where the offers were lucrative and the competition was tough. But Donnie’s next fight stalled his career. In his third straight fight in Indonesia, he faced an opponent who was six pounds over the contracted weight and lost (expectedly). His next fight wasn’t a big help as well, a majority draw. At this point, I’m sure his ALA handlers were having second thoughts at whether or not Donnie could make it all the way to the top. But Donnie rambled on until he won his first regional title, the WBO Asia Pacific minimumweight title in 2006.He defended the title twice before finally getting a crack at the world title in 2007 against Somporn Seeta of Thailand for the WBO world minimumweight championship. Donnie won by unanimous decision and that was just the beginning.

Not content with winning on local shores, Donnie did the unthinkable when he defended his world title in Mexico not once, but three times between 2009 and 2010. I have no doubt that these fights were the critical bouts where he got the much-needed confidence and self-belief that he was a world champ for real. 2011 was to be another breakthrough year as Donnie invaded the heavier light flyweight division (108 pounds). He won his second belt and defended this, including two fights against fellow world champion Moises Fuentes of Mexico. While the first was a draw and a fight that drew questions from the other camp (with Marco Antonio Barrera), the second fight was all Donnie as he knocked out Fuentes in the ninth round. 2017 was another step-up year, this time to the flyweight division (112 pounds). This time, Donnie switched to the International Boxing Federation (IBF), but this didn’t make any difference as he defeated Thailander Komgrich Nantapech by unanimous decision to win the IBF flyweight championship of the world, his third in as many weight divisions. He defended this title once before moving up again, this time to the 115-pound division  to fight fellow Pinoy Aston Palicte for the WBO junior bantamweight world championship in 2018. But this ended in a draw and spoiled Donnie’s quest for a fourth world title. The decision was a controversial one; with one judge calling it for Donnie, another for Palicte, while the third saw it a draw. Many weren’t happy with the decision, but Donnie knew he couldn't do anything about it but to move on. With everything in place, Donnie fought one last time in 2018 on New Year’s Eve in Macau against Kazuto Ioka for the same WBO junior bantamweight belt. The outcome was never in doubt as Donnie dominated the Japanese throughout the fight (even if it was officially a split decision win; one judge saw Ioka as the winner, a big question mark). Donnie arose anew, just like he did after those controversial calls against Palicte, his draw with Fuentes, and his loss to Angkota in Indonesia. Donnie used these occasions to rise and become an even better boxer and silence all doubters. He did all this without changing his warm, simple and heart-warming persona.

Donnie’s career can best be described as the journey of a boxer who went through several tough moments and challenges in his career. But Donnie faced these head-on and came out on top. From janitor to curtain-raiser to main event feature to record breaker and now one of the GOATs of Philippine boxing.



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