By Francisco Salazar
INGLEWOOD, California - In an all-Filipino clash, Donnie Nietes and Aston Palicte fought to a 12 round split decision draw.
Both fighters were fighting for the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title, which will remain vacant.
The Nietes-Palicte fight was three and a half months after the Jerwin Ancajas-Jonas Sultan fight, which was the first all-Filipino world title bout since 1925.
Nietes (41-1-5, 24 KOs) was hoping to win a world title bout in his fourth weight class having won titles as a strawweight, junior flyweight, and, most recently, as a flyweight.
Palicte, who was ranked number two by the WBO, was taking a significant step up in opposition.
The fight was tactical from the beginning between the boxer Nietes, who was the WBO mandatory challenger, and hard-hitting Palicte. Throughout the first four rounds, boos cascaded down from the crowd as both fighters waited to counter one another.
The fight opened up more in round five as Nietes initiated exchanges and Palicte looked to counter with right hands. Palicte was more successful closing the distance and initiating exchanges, putting Nietes on the defensive.
The pace of the fight slowed down by the ninth round, making the crowd inside The Forum restless due to the lack of action. Boos and whistles again rained down from the crowd.
It was during these final rounds that Palicte attemptied to walk Nietes down, but Nietes slipped those punches and countered with his own. Nietes landed several punches flush onto Palicte's head in the final round, but was not able to score a knockdown.
One judge scored the bout 118-110 for Nietes, another judge had Palicte winning 116-112, while the third judge had the fight scored 114-114.
Compubox numbers favored Nietes, who landed 194 of 523 total punches (37 percent). Palicte connected on 124 of 830 total punches (15 percent).
"Of course I won the fight," said Nietes, who resides in Bacolod City, in The Philippines. "Tonight was my first time fighting at this weight. I dealt with his reach."
"I wanted to unify the titles. I want to fight him again."
Palicte, who hails from Bago City, saw the fight differently.
"It was a close fight," said Palicte, whose record goes to 24-2-1, 20 KOs. "I was the best fighter in the first half of the fight. I threw punches. I landed punches. Towards the end of the fight, he was coming on. I'm ready to do it again."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing