Donnie Nietes defeated Kazuto Ioka more than three years ago in what remains the most significant win of his storied career.
Yet, it’s the former four-division titlist from the Philippines who finds himself as the one with something to prove heading into their awaited rematch.
The two will collide once again on Wednesday at Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan. The fight—which will air live on TBS-Japan (no U.S. outlet yet revealed)—comes as Nietes’ home country suddenly finds itself without a major titlist, on the heels of Mark Magsayo becoming the fourth Filipino to lose a major title within the past five months. The nation’s hopes now rest on the shoulders on the 40-year-old Nietes.
"Age doesn't matter,” Nietes insisted during a recent media workout ahead of the rematch. “This is a fight to prove that I'm a legend.”
Magsayo’s loss came exactly one month after Nonito Donaire (42-7, 28KOs) conceded his WBC bantamweight title in a second-round knockout loss to WBA/IBF champ Naoya Inoue in their June 9 rematch in Saitama, Japan. Earlier this year, Jerwin Ancajas suffered an upset, twelve-round decision defeat to Fernando Martinez to lose his IBF junior bantamweight title earlier this year.
Wedged in between was the WBO stripping John Riel Casimero of his bantamweight title in late April for failure to honor his overdue mandatory with Paul Butler.
Nietes (40-1-6, 23KOs) added to Philippines’ rich history with his New Year’s Eve 2018 win over Ioka (28-2, 15KOs), claiming the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title in the process. Both were aiming to become a four-division titlist at the time, with Nietes prevailing by split decision.
“At that time, the decision was split, but this time I will win in a clearer way,” vowed Nietes, who vacated the title shortly thereafter and has since only fought twice. “This was the fight I wanted the most and I am incredibly eager to win back my world title.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox