TEN years ago, Donnie Nietes faced then undefeated Pornsawan Porpramook for the vacant WBO minimumweight title at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino.
Cebu City wasn’t as flood-prone then, Ayala only had the active zone, there was no North Wing in SM and the SRP was just a subject of a tug-of-war between the cities of Cebu and Talisay City.
Nietes downed the Thai in the fourth round en route to scoring a unanimous decision win for his first world title. The celebration was epic, of course, considering that Nietes became the first world champion of the ALA boxing gym.
Little did we know that not only would Nietes be one of the greatest champions of the Philippines but he’d be included as one of the best in boxing history.
And 10 years after winning his first world title, the guy who started as a janitor in the gym is still one of the world’s elite.
Nietes, who used to bring his pet snake in the ring, would go on to win two more divisions and break Flash Elorde’s long-standing seven-year record.
Even the Mexicans began to grudgingly respect the ALA fighter, when he defended his belt in Mexico against Mexicans, winning them all despite the various machinations the host did against him.
One time, Edito Villamor said in a conversation long ago, the Mexican challenger had fans directed at him, while Nietes had none and the venue was very humid.
A lesser fighter would have wilted, according to Villamor, but Nietes is made of sterner stuff and then some, and even picked up the pace in the championship rounds.
Then there was his storied two-fight series with Moises Fuentes, whom he beat via majority decision the first time around, a close contest that warranted a rematch.
Fight no. 2 was one-sided and Fuentes hit the canvas for good in the ninth round.
At 35, Donnie doesn’t have much to prove. He has done it all.
Though he said during his last fight that he still feels young and even feels stronger at 35, we all know that Father Time is that one foe that even the best of the best can’t beat.
I don’t know what ALA has in store for their storied champ who will surely be in the Hall of Fame once he retires, but I hope that Cebu fans get to see more of their beloved champ in big promotions here.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on September 30, 2017.
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