By Cliff Rold
SuperFly 2 is almost here and it’s easily the best HBO card since, well, probably since the first SuperFly.
This time, all of the televised action won’t be in the 115 lb. division.
Just three lbs. below super flyweight/Jr. bantamweight is the classic flyweight limit of 112 lbs. The last addition of the so-called ‘original eight’ weight classes, it’s apparently still super enough.
That’s a good thing for viewers at home.
Flyweight proper has undergone quite the shakeup in the last couple years. It wasn’t long ago that it was one of boxing’s most compelling weight classes. A cast that included Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Giovani Segura, Akira Yaegashi, and Kazuto Ioka demanded more than a passing glance.
As is often the case in boxing, today’s hot weight class is the one right above the last. Ioka retired early, Segura and Yaegashi wore down, and Gonzalez and Estrada moved up to join a new cast of tough characters to create the new place to be. Gonzalez found 115 lbs. his toughest hill to climb and, after a big knockout defeat last year to Saturday headliner Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, may be closing in on the exits himself.
Before the defeat, Gonzalez added his name to Leo Gamez as the only fighters to win belts from 105 to 115 lbs. A third man, considering his inclusion on Saturday’s card, could join them soon. 35-year old Filipino Donnie Nietes (40-1-4, 22 KO) will attempt the first defense of his IBF flyweight belt in a fight that might not steal the show but could at least borrow heavily from the spotlight.
And while there might be some debate from young WBC titlist Daigo Higa, Nietes arrival at flyweight last year after most of the cupboard emptied makes him almost the de facto leader of the class.
Nietes, while known to followers of the lighter weights, is largely just being introduced to the American audience. They may be surprised to find out he’s been on the world title scene for over a decade. The former WBO 105 and 108 lb. titlist, also winning Ring Magazine honors in the latter, Nietes has had a quietly superb career. Wins over tough outs like Pornsawan Porpramook, Moises Fuentes, and Francisco Rodriguez Jr. lend credibility to a title fight record of 15-0-1.
Because the lower weights are a buyers market for HBO, these SuperFly cards can assert a stronger quality control in matchmaking that doesn’t always happen in higher weight class ‘star’ making efforts. Nietes is in a real fight this weekend.
Argentina’s 34-year old Juan Carlos Reveco (39-3, 19 KO) is a former WBA titlist at 108 lbs. and sub-titlist at 112. His only losses are to former Olympian Brahim Asloum and the aforementioned Ioka. Ioka, in their second fight, stopped Reveco for the first and to date only time in his career. Reveco has won three straight since the second loss to Ioka.
Nietes is the toughest man he’s faced since. Reveco may be the best foe for Nietes since the 2015 showdown with Rodriguez.
Nietes needs to win this weekend to make for more than being able to add ‘fought on HBO’ to his sterling resume. Winning keeps him in the mix for future dates, including the rumored possibility of a move to 115 lbs. to face a returning Gonzalez later this year.
Winning in a fight that makes people want to see him again is even better. Nietes isn’t just fighting Reveco. He’s fighting the clock. Nietes is a fighter whose longevity engenders respect but he always seemed just outside the bubble of the guys getting the big fights. Now is his chance to get as much big action in as he can before his aging body inevitably betrays him.
Until that time, it’s a good thing that American fans can be treated to both men on Saturday’s undercard. Nietes, if he wins, might not blow away the audience with the offensive dynamism of a Gonzalez or Sor Rungvisai but his skill level is easy for anyone to appreciate. Nietes is a complete, crafty, intelligent boxer who isn’t afraid to mix it up when he has to. He’s a fighter who belonged in the ring with the likes of Gonzalez and Estrada years ago.
Better to be late to the party than never arrive at all.
Given his accomplishments, it wouldn’t take all that much for Nietes to become someone who gets a deep look for the International Boxing Hall of Fame when he’s done. A few really big wins late in his career would make a case for him with a voting pool that often has to see a talent, particularly a flyweight talent, on US airwaves to be swayed.
It isn’t always the case but there is a reason Mark Johnson made it in the Hall on the first ballot while Yoko Gushiken, Jung Koo Chang, and Myung Wuh Yuh all waited a decade or two. Nietes might not seem like a candidate to viewers seeing him for the first time this weekend but that could change quickly.
He has to get through Reveco first.
Then he has to beat the clock.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]