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Nietes restless without a title


PhilBoxing.com




Former WBO minimumweight and lightflyweight champion Donnie Nietes will shoot for a grand slam when he takes on Thailand?s Komgrich (Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking) Nantapech for the vacant IBF flyweight crown in Cebu on April 26 with the prospect of joining Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, Jr. as the only Filipinos to win world titles in at least three divisions.

Nietes, 34, hasn?t lost since dropping a highly-disputed split decision to Angky Angkota in Jakarta six years ago and intends to extend his unbeaten streak of 31 fights. Nantapech, 27, is on a hot wave himself, winning his last 15 bouts but his three career defeats were inflicted outside of Thailand, including two in Manila so he?s clearly entering the ring to battle Nietes an underdog.

Nietes is out to claim the IBF throne that was vacated by another Filipino Johnriel Casimero. The IBF hasn?t filled up the slots for the No. 1 and No. 2 contenders, leaving No. 3 Nietes and No. 4 Nantapech to dispute the title. Nietes, a 14-year pro, holds the Philippine record for the longest uninterrupted reign as world champion, bridging the 105 and 108-pound classes, from 2007 to 2016 when he surrendered the lightflyweight championship voluntarily to move up to 112. Nietes? record is 39-1-4, with 22 KOs, compared to Nantapech?s 22-3, with 15 KOs.

?This bout against Nantapech means so much to me because I would like to be a champion in every division I fight in,? said Nietes, clearly uncomfortable in his current status without a belt. ?Thai fighters never give up so I?m not taking Nantapech lightly. This is good because I want to give a competitive fight for the boxing fans.?

Nietes said Nantapech fights like Wisaksil Wangek, the Thai southpaw who upset Nicaragua?s Roman (Chocolatito) Gonzalez on a majority 12-round decision to claim the WBC superflyweight crown at Madison Square Garden in New York City last March 18. Nantapech isn?t lefthanded like Wisaksil but is just as relentless. ?Nantapech is a brawler like Wisaksil,? said Nietes. ?He has a strong defense and throws a lot of punches, too.?

Nietes said he?s ready for any eventuality in battling Nantapech. ?How I?ll fight him depends on the actual situation when we meet in the ring,? he said, declining to reveal secrets. ?Rest assured, I will be prepared for this fight.?

Nietes said his goal is to unify all the championships in the flyweight division. The WBA title is held by Japan?s Kazuto Ioka with a 21-1 record, including 12 KOs. Ioka will make the fifth defense of the championship against Thailand?s Noknoi Sitthiprasert in Osaka on April 23. Mexico?s Juan Hernandez Navarrete stopped Thailand?s Nawaphon Kaiwanha to capture the vacant WBC title last March 4. China?s Zou Shiming beat Thailand?s Prasitak Phaprom for the vacant WBO crown last November. So assuming Nietes takes the IBF title, his dream is to face Ioka or Navarrete or Shiming next.

If comebacking Brian Viloria looms as a challenger, Nietes said he won?t back down from meeting the Hawaiian Punch. ?I don?t have any problem as to who will be my next opponent,? he said. ?It?s up to my promoter (Michael Aldeguer, president of ALA Boxing) to decide whom I fight. My task is to be ready and be prepared for anyone, anywhere, anytime.?

Nantapech has won only once in four fights outside of Thailand. In 2012, he was knocked out by Nietes? ALA stablemate Albert Pagara in Maasin, Southern Leyte and a year later, was outpointed by Froilan Saludar in Makati. In his most recent outing last September, Nantapech stopped Filipino Jeny Boy Boca in Bangkok. His other Filipino victims were Jayar Diama, Jomar Fajardo, Lionel Legada, Edison Berwela, Renz Llagas and Jimmy Masangkay.

Photo: Donnie Nietes (L) hits the mitts with trainer Edmund Villamor during Nietes's public workout at the Robinson's Galleria in Cebu City last Saturday, April 1. Photo by Dong Secuya.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.


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