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Nietes patiently charts career

CEBU CITY ñ Years ago, the ALA Boxing Gym gym slowly built its empire by pushing for their boxers who campaigned in the flyweight division and up.

Back then, American promoters and networks never took the minimumweight and the junior flyweight boxers seriously no matter how exciting fights went in those twin divisions.

There were few exceptions though when Humberto Gonzalez, Michael Carbajal and Ricardo Lopez dominated the sportís lightest divisions by claiming millions of dollars in prize money during their time.

This, in a lot of ways, forced ALAís main man Tony Aldeguer to make Z Gorres, AJ Banal, Rey ìBoom Boomî Bautista, and Mark Jason Melligen and lately Genesis Servania and Jason Pagara topbill most of their Pinoy Pride series and other boxing events.

I say “forced” because knowing Aldeguer, he sees excitement and marketability in fighters campaigning in the 108 lb class as well as in the 105 lb division.

Sometime in early 2000, a tricycle driver and sugarcane worker switched jobs and decided to take an offer of becoming the gymís janitor.

Donnie Nietes instantly grabbed the opportunity because he knew that the job offer would also give him a chance to be part of the gymís elite roster of boxing champions.

“Kilala ko na ang ALA gym noon kasi ang mga tiyuhin ko ay doon nag-boxing. Alam ko kasi na kapag nakapasok ka sa ALA, ibig sabihin magaling at disiplinado kang boxer,” said Nietes.

Nietes persevered and made sure he was doing well as the gymís top mop man to maintain his spot in the famed sweatshop.

“Nagpursige ako as janitor para sa gabi makapag-ensayo ako,” revealed Nietes.

After becoming one of ALA’s top amateur fighters, Nietes made a decision to turn pro and asked for Aldeguer’s blessing.

“Hindi ako pinayagan noong una kasi masyado daw akong maliit noon at wala pa akong muscle. Tanggap ko naman yung desisyon niya pero nagpursige ako na magpalaki din ng katawan kasi 45 kg (99 lbs) lang ako noon,” said Nietes.

The second time he asked for Aldeguerís permission, Nietes was already bent on turning pro with or without his benefactorís approval.

This time, Aldeguer gave his consent for his 5-foot-3 protÈgÈ to turn pro and start building a career that was a bit uncertain noting that big cards here and abroad tend to exclude 105 lb boxers.

Nietes’ decision to turn pro became a huge challenge at a time when Bautista et al were the stars of ALAís shows and proved to be highly-rated boxers, TV-wise, since the inception of Pinoy Pride.

“Syempre noong una may selos din pero hindi ko na din pinapansin yung situation. Basta nagsumikap lang ako na maging world champion balang araw,” said Nietes.

Nietes got his biggest break in 2007 when he fought and won a world crown by beating Pornsawan Porpramok of Thailand for the vacant WBO minimumweight crown.

Though already an established champion, Nietesí road to stardom turned out to be a difficult one as he had to defend his crown three out of four times behind enemy lines.

Nietes slowly entered the consciousness of Filipino fight fans when he came back from a lackluster outing against Mexican champion Moises Fuentes by stopping the same boxer in their rematch.

Since then, Nietes’s name has been regularly mentioned as possible opponents of marquee champions Roman Gonzalez of Nicaragua and Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico who both rule as kingpins of the flyweight division.

While Nietes expressed his desire to meet anyone between the two flyweight rulers in the near future, the 7-year champion is letting his handlers to chart his future.

For now, Nietes is focused in tomorrowís defense of his crown against another Mexican Francisco Rodriguez which will happen at the posh Waterfront Hotel here.

A win will surely increase Nietes’ chances of getting that dream of conquering the flyweight class and become ALA Boxing Gymís most cherished prizefighter.

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