By Dennis Principe
Call him a late bloomer or what but three-division world champion Donnie ‘Ahas’ Nietes has the feeling of a 24-year-old boxer ready to take on all comers in the quickest possible time.
Indeed, it took some time, more than a decade to be exact, before the 35-year-old Nietes could finally earn the adulation of boxing fans and pundits, thanks to a highly successful boxing program series “Pinoy Pride” that was painstakingly produced by his handlers and their TV network partner ABS-CBN.
For a while, Nietes (41-1-4, 23 knockouts) took a backseat to his more illustrious stablemates at the famed ALA Boxing Gym as people were enamoured with the likes of Czar Amonsot, Rey ‘Boom Boom’ Bautista, AJ ‘Bazooka’ Banal and Z Gorres who all came short of winning a world crown.
“Even when he became a world champion, his snake was more popular than him,” said promoter Michael Aldeguer, the top honcho of ALA Boxing Promotions.
Back in the day, boxing fans were more interested in having a picture with that reptile Nietes would bring along whenever he made his ring entrance.
“I never thought about it as an insult. My focus is how to win every fight. I even actually wanted to bring my snakes to the US but I just can’t get a visa for them,” was how Nietes light-heartedly recalled people’s admiration towards his unusual pet.
Just last month, Nietes scored what many believe was a breakthrough win for him as it came 11 years after he won his first world crown.
Nietes was able to defend his IBF world flyweight crown via a masterful seventh round destruction of mandatory challenger and former two-division titleholder Juan Carlos Reveco of Argentina on February 24 at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
What made the win special for Nietes was the fact that the fight was held beneath the super flyweight title bout between defending champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai of Thailand and Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada - which was won by the Thai via decision to keep his WBC crown.
“Estrada and Rungvisai, those two are my dream fights. You can add (Roman) Chocolatito (Gonzalez) to that list, anyone among the three, I want them next,” said Nietes.
Being a longtime WBO champion, Nietes is being given the first option to vie for the vacant 115lb crown recently vacated by Naoya Inoue of Japan who decided to move up in weight.
Before conquering the flyweight division, Nietes held the WBO minimumweight crown September 2007 to August 2010 then moved up to capture the WBO 108lb crown which hew held from October 2011 to May 2016.
Initially, the WBO was set to sanction a title bout between Nietes and Gonzalez but the Nicaraguan informed the organization of his desire to have one tune-up match in May before gunning for a world crown.
“I don’t want any more tune-up bouts in moving up. I’ll take that WBO (super flyweight) title shot against anyone that my manager brings in front of me,” said Nietes “I’ve waited for this for a long time I fear that a tune up might make me rusty and that may eventually affect my chances against my desired foes.”
Currently, unbeaten Hong Kong superstar Rex Tso is the highest rated boxer in the WBO super fly rankings followed by Filipino Aston Palicte. Gonzalez is ranked third by the Puerto Rico-based organization.
“Bring them on. I’m ready. This is my moment. 115 is my next stop and I’m set to return to training camp soonest to start preparing for a new challenge in my career,” said Nietes.