Donnie Nietes took the first step in making his way back into the junior bantamweight mix.
The former four-division titlist ended a lengthy layoff with a 10-round unanimous decision win over Colombia’s Pablo Carrillo. Scores were 99-91, 98-92 and a surprisingly close 96-95 in favor of Philippines’ Nietes in their ESPN+ televised chief support Saturday at Caesars Palace Bluewaters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Nietes entered the right for the first time in more than 27 months, fighting at a deliberate pace while Carrillo mostly fought in counterpunching mode. Action was slow, with Nietes—who turns 39 in May—fighting behind the jab and offering an occasional right hand. Carrillo was unable to find any openings nor wished to expend his energy.
The pattern spilled over into round two before things picked up in round three. Carrillo was unable to land anything to swing momentum in his favor, though let his hands go more in the frame. Nietes was able to pick off most of the incoming, continuing to score with his jab.
Nietes targeted the body in round four, digging with right hands downstairs. Carrillo attempted to respond in kind but found the Filipino an elusive target. Nietes put more behind his power shots in round five, connecting with clean jab-right hand combination punches. Carrillo shook off the blows and continued to come forward, landing a lead left hook in the closing seconds of the round.
With action remaining one way, Nietes began to take more chances. Carrillo was peppered with right hands by Nietes, who looked to end the fight with a left hook which ultimately missed the mark.
Carrillo was in defensive mode for much of round eight. Nietes used every inch of the ring to set up his offense, landing right hands from long range and working his way inside to score with uppercuts.
Carrillo sensed he was well behind on the scorecards as he came out swinging to start the 10th and final round. Nietes was content to play defense, circling around the ring and allowing his foe to come to him before responding with counter shots upstairs. Carrillo ate a clean left hook to the chin, taking the punch well in managing to make it to the final bell though dropping a lopsided decision in falling to 25-8-1 (16KOs).
Final Compubox numbers were relatively close, with Nietes landing 97-of-425 total punches (23%) while Carrillo was 81-of-415 total punches (19%).
Nietes improves to 43-1-5 (23KOs) with the win, his first since New Year’s Eve 2018, when he outpointed Kazuto Ioka to win the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title. The two-plus year layoff was unexpected, though in part due to vacating his title in search of bigger fights in lieu of proceeding with a mandatory defense.
The move led to his going all of 2019 without a fight and then having to wait out the coronavirus pandemic before deciding to sign with D4G Boxing Promotions. Nietes made his debut under the upstart promotional outfit on Saturday, with hopes of remaining far more active in 2021, even in the twilight of his incredible career.
The win also extends his current 36-fight unbeaten streak, with his lone loss coming in 2004 during his 12th pro fight.
The bout aired in supporting capacity to WBO junior lightweight titlist’s Jamel Herring (22-2, 10KOs) attempted third title defense versus former two-division champion Carl Frampton (28-2, 16KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox