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No deodorizer for split-draw mess

The stench created by the split-draw verdict in the recent Donnie Nietes-Aston Palicte WBO super flyweight title match is one that can only be matched by the piles of garbage thrown back by the Manila Bay at Roxas Boulevard after a heavy downpour.

It really stinks, particularly when you consider that Nietes almost lost the fight. Judge Robert Hoyle scored it 116-112 for Palicte while Judge Max DeLuca ruled the fight an unbelievable draw at 114-114. The only saving grace was the 118-110 score of Judge Daniel Sandoval.

This writer scored the fight 117-111 for Nietes. Palicte offered youth, size and power, but none of the ring savvy and technical know-how of grizzled veteran Nietes. Palicte’s offense was too predictable, principally anchored on a left jab-right straight combination. He also offered the head movement of a tree, making him a sucker for Nietes’ counterpunches.

Make no mistake, Palicte had his moments. He sneaked in a few uppercuts in the fourth stanza and in the ninth round caught a lunging Nietes with a wicked right hand that could have toppled a condemned building. But for the most part, Palicte’s offense was listless. He offered too much respect for Nietes and rarely varied his punches.

Being the bigger fighter, Palicte should have established his elongated left jab from the start and worked on backing up Nietes to the ropes. Palicte should have bullied and crowded Nietes in the corner considering that the latter was just making his debut in the 115-pound division.

Instead, Palicte danced to the beat of Nietes’ drum. Nietes kept the fight at the center of the ring where he methodically broke down Palicte with textbook counterpunches. Palicte felt no sense of urgency to launch an all-out assault in the last few rounds.

Everything went Nietes’ way, except for the ridiculous scores of Hoyle and DeLuca. With the split draw, the status quo is retained: the WBO super flyweight title remains vacant and Nietes and Palicte remain the top contenders for it.

A rematch is definitely in the cards, but a third party may have just entered the picture to spice things up. In the undercard of the Nietes-Palicte fight, former three-division world champion Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13 knockouts) of Japan emerged from a brief hiatus to score an impressive decision over Puerto Rican McWilliams Arroyo. Ioka floored Arroyo in the third round and dominated the fight with his volume punching.

Ioka, 29, surprisingly announced his retirement in April 2017 after successfully defending his WBA flyweight title against Nare Yianleang. Reports had it that Ioka chose to retire because he had issues with his father Kazunori Ioka, who also served as his manager. In July 2018, Ioka had a change of heart and announced that he was returning to boxing to pursue a fourth division title.

Like Nietes, Ioka had won titles in the minimumweight (105 lbs.), light flyweight (108 lbs.) and flyweight (112 lbs.) divisions. The idea of Ioka (23-1, 13 knockouts) and Nietes (41-3, 5 draws, 23 knockouts) battling for the WBO super flyweight crown, with both men aiming to become a four-division world champion, definitely tickles the fistic imagination.

Ioka is a boxer who is never shy to step out of his cocoon and slug it out. Ioka passed his super flyweight test with flying colors and talks are swirling on Japan playing host to a showdown with Nietes in December.

Palicte (24-2, 1 draw with 20 knockouts) may have to take the backseat, albeit with the guarantee that he will meet the winner of the Ioka-Nietes scuffle. In the interim, Palicte can take a tune-up fight to address his shortcomings in the Nietes fight.

If Nietes prevails over Ioka and Palicte gets his groove back in a tune-up bout, a rematch between the two Filipino prizefighters can be arranged. The scenario the next time out figures to be more competitive. One can only hope though that the WBO will not tap three blind mice to judge the encore.

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