Donnie Nietes is the pride of the Pinoys

An overflow crowd flocked to the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino last weekend. Each “Pinoy Pride” series of ALA Promotions always elicits a jampacked audience — but last Saturday teemed with even more fans and excitement. It was hot. Seated up on-stage, I saw ALA — Tony Aldeguer — fanning himself. The reason: Cebuanos overheated and swarmed the ballroom to witness Donnie Nietes win his 10th straight against a Mexican. Ahas, the slithery-snake-of-a-champion, was to reward the spectators with Historic Win No. 34.

Judging from their physiques alone (as they entered the ring), it was obvious who was the world champ. Carlos Velarde, youthful at 24 and carrying both a boyish grin and some unneeded fat plastered around his body — he was a neophyte. Skills-wise, the Mexican was shoddy; his strategy was to hug and embrace.

The ending was anti-climactic. The crowd longed for a flurry of uppercuts punctuated by a falling Velarde. But a knockout wasn’t meant to be. In the end, Velarde was “saved” by the accidental head-butt. With his face bloodied, it was the perfect excuse for him to quit.

RECORD. Ronnie Nathanielsz best explains Donnie’s win in his Philboxing.com article: “With the win Nietes reached a high-water-mark in his career by remaining undefeated for 7 years, 1 month and 15 days as he chases the record of 7 years and 3 months established by the great Hall-of-Famer, the late Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde who reigned as world junior lightweight champion for seven years and three months… This means that the 32 year old Nietes will surpass the longtime record of Elorde on January 1, 2015 which will significantly be on the eve of Elorde’s death in the early hours of January 2 signifying that from the ashes of one all-time Filipino great another champion in Nietes, arises.”

MILAN. I’m not sure why but Milan Melindo looked unimpressive. Yes, his diminutive opponent clearly lost the bout but Milan’s victory did not excite the crowd. Several moments during the 12-round encounter, you could hear awkward silence. Were some starting to fall asleep? The firepower and attack-mode were absent. Michael Rama, when I sat with the mayor at the lobby minutes after the event, was shaking his head at his wobbly performance.

CROWD. It’s hard to please the Cebuanos! This was the conclusion arrived at by my seat-mate, Atty. Jingo Quijano. After we witnessed two prolonged battles lasting a dozen rounds each between Pagara-Hilares and Melindo-Suarez, the audience felt bored. They wanted a knockout. You could hear their “disappointment” at Pagara and Melindo, despite the wins. But here’s the funny point: the crowd complains when a visitor gets KO’d in the early rounds — saying that the ALA officials always bring lousy boxers. But they also complain when the bouts are long.

VERBAL CONFRONTATION. An interesting occurrence happened after the Melindo bout. The manager of the Mexican boxers confronted ALA Promotions CEO Michael P. Aldeguer. He complained. A large, mestizo man wearing the Mexican red jacket, it looked like he was ready for a brawl — against Michael. He signaled with his fingers the number “2.” I wasn’t sure what he was saying, if it was “Your (ALA) boxer won only two rounds!” or if it was “You stole two victories from us!” But his voice grew louder until the security personnel intervened. Michael, always sporting a cool demeanor, shrugged off the outburst. But the man kept on shouting. MPA approached to pacify him but he wanted none of it. Finally, the hot-tempered Mexican was moved aside and the tension was diffused. Imagine if he pushed or threw a punch.

PACQUIAO. After Nietes, it’s now the turn of an even more illustrious Pinoy boxer to do his part: win this Sunday. Back-to-back weekends of boxing. To the fan of this sport of jabs and uppercuts, it’s a treat. After Manny’s expected win, here’s hoping for that eventual Manny-Money mega-fight.

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