When Manny Pacquiao, the country’s undisputed sports superstar, lost to arch nemesis Floyd Mayweather Jr., in their much awaited yet routinely scorned matchup last May, Filipino sports fans were left with no choice but scout for a new boxing icon to save their year.
Fortunately, they need not look far.
Two-division world champion Donnie “Ahas” Nietes made sure his countrymen can still look back at 2015 with a proud smile on their faces. And he achieved this on the very first month of the year when he broke the record of the late Gabriel “Flash” Elorde as the longest reigning world boxing champion.
For this remarkable feat, Nietes, who has 37 wins, with 24 knockouts and a single loss with four draws, was enshrined to the Elorde Boxing Hall of Fame.
Nietes successfully defended his WBO Light flyweight title three times this year against Gilberto Parra of Mexico last March at the Smart Araneta Coliseum by unanimous decision; against former world champion Francisco Rodriguez Jr. last July at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino also by unanimous decision and against Juan Alejo in his US debut last October in Carson City, California.
The Ilongo warrior also received the WBO Super Champions Ring last July from no less than WBO President Francisco Valcarcel who personally handed the diamond-encrusted ring before his fight against Rodriguez. Nietes joined boxing legends Oscar dela Hoya, Marco Antonio Barerra, Joe Calzaghe and Juan Manuel Marquez as the only recipients of the coveted ring.
But as inspiring as Nietes’ year was, everything did not turn out rosy at the ALA Boxing Gym.
Milan “El Metodico” Melindo and “King”Arthur Villanueva all stumbled in their bid to clinch a world title after losing in separate fights abroad.
Melindo bowed to International Boxing Federation (IBF) light flyweight champion Javier “Cobra” Mendoza in Mexico last May while Villanueva lost to Mcjoe Arroyo by technical decision in Texas, USA in their IBF super flyweight title joust.
ALA Promotions International, meanwhile, grabbed a piece of history as the first Asian promotions company to stage a fight in the U.S. Led by CEO Michael Aldeguer, it hosted “Pinoy Pride 33: Filipinos Kontra Latinos” at the Stub Hub Center in California headlined by no less than Nietes.
ALA Promotions also held its second fight card in Dubai UAE last August 7.
WORLD CHAMP AGAIN
The year also witnessed the return of Nonito “Filipino Flash” Donaire Jr. to the top after the five-time world king won the vacant WBO super bantamweight title with a unanimous decision win against Mexican Cesar Juarez of Mexico in a “Fight of the Year” candidate.
Prior to this fight, Donaire also defeated unheralded Brazilian William Prado at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last March and Anthony Settoul of France last July in Macau, China.
FLOP OF THE CENTURY
The much-awaited Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, which took five years to materialize and dubbed as the “Fight of the Century” failed to live up to its pre-fight hype. Pacquiao, boxing’s only eight-division champion stalked a slippery Mayweather who refused to engage the Pambansang Kamao to a phone booth slugfest and was dubiously rewarded with a unanimous decision victory in what many fight fans now call the “Scam of the Century.”
The richest fight in boxing history made Mayweather richer by $230 Million while the Sarangani representative earned $150 Million.
Mayweather’s May 2 victory gave him the WBO, WBC and WBA welterweight titles which he successfully defended last October against Andrei Berto at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Since that infamous Cinco de Mayo sham, Pacquiao will be back in action in April against former foe Timothy Bradley (see separate story).