By Jake Donovan
Having shared a boxing ring for 12 rounds last September and the past few weeks in talks for an ordered rematch, Donnie Nietes and Aston Palicte are now prepared to move in separate directions.
Plans for a title fight rematch between the pair of Flipino super flyweights have officially vanquished following Nietes’ decision to vacate his World Boxing Organization (WBO) title. The move came ahead of a scheduled purse bid hearing, which was due to take place Thursday morning at WBO headquarters in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“After a series of discussions with Team Nietes, it is with deep regret that Donnie Nietes as decidd to vacate his WBO belt, as he does not have much time in his [b]oxing career at 37 (years) of age,” Michael Aldeguer, president of ALA Promotions explained in a formal statement to the WBO on Thursday. “His wish is to look for [b]igger fights to enhance his legacy and achieve his ultimate dream before hanging up his gloves.”
Nietes (42-1-5, 23KOs) has won titles in four weight classes, three of which have come with a WBO at stake. The latest conquest took place last New Year’s Eve, barely edging out former three-division titlist Kazuto Ioka in their vacant title fight in Macao.
The bout came three months after Nietes and Palicte (25-2-1, 21KOs) fought to a 12-round draw last September in Inglewood, California, with the title remaining vacant afterward. Nietes was permitted a direct path to a seond straight title shot, with the understanding that the winner would have to next defend versus the assigned mandatory challenger.
That road led right back to Palicte, who claimed the top contender spot following a two-round destruction of Puerto Rico’s Jose Martinez in their title eliminator last January. Talks were immediately ordered for a rematch with Nietes, with the two camps given just a 14-day window to come to terms before being subject to a purse bid hearing.
From the moment talks began, the team at Roy Jones Junior Boxing Promotions (RJJBP)—with whom Palicte is aligned—sensed that Nietes wasn’t particularly interested in the fight as he’d been eyeing more lucrative opportunities in the loaded super flyweight division.
Their hunch proved accurate, having to wait nearly a full month for it to become reality.
“A rematch with Aston Palicte is an emotional and mental challenge for him as he went through a very difficult stage after their first fight in a controversial draw,” Aldeguer further explained on behalf of his client, who was never big on once again having to face his countryman. “[F]ighting a fellow Filipino again who is fromt the same region where he was born makes it even more difficult.”
The move leaves Palicte in prime position to once again fight for a vacant WBO title. RJJBP CEO Keith Veltre informed BoxingScene.com that steps were being immediately taken to confirm the opponent and the potential purse splits for such a fight, declining comment beyond that until further details were provided.
A showdown with Ioka could very well be in the cards, given the WBO’s current super flyweight rankings. The next two highest rated contenders—Japan’s Ryuichi Funai and former flyweight titlist Juan Francisco Estrada—are both booked with future title fights of their own.
Funai (31-7) is being groomed for a shot at Palicte’s countryman, IBF 115-pound title claimant Jerwin Ancajas, while Estrada (38-3) is locked in for an April 26 rematch with World (lineal) super flyweight champion and WBC titlist Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
That would leave Ioka next line, although such a ruling has yet to come down from the WBO as this goes to publish.
As for Nietes, the 16-year ring veteran—who is unbeaten in his last 35 starts (31-0-4) since suffering his lone loss in his 13th pro fight—will undoubtedly keep his eye on the outcome of Sor Rungvisai-Estrada II, as well as potentially big money fights with WBA titlist Khalid Yafai and fellow former four-division titlist Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez.
“It took me a long time to think about this very difficult decision (to vacate the title) but I feel that every fight for me at this stage of my career is crucial for my future,” Nietes said. “I have long been dreaming of a career-defining fight. There is not much time for me in this sport at 37 (years of age).”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox