Nietes, eyeing 'career-defining fight,' vacates title

Donnie Nietes has vacated his junior bantamweight world title, with the move coming ahead of a purse bid scheduled on Thursday for his mandatory defense against Filipino countryman Aston Palicte.

Nietes, with belts in four divisions, is among his country's all-time best. He decided he wanted to have a more meaningful fight as he is in the twilight of his career.

"It took me a long time to think about this very difficult decision, but I feel that every fight for me at this stage of my career is crucial for my future," Nietes wrote to WBO president Paco Valcarcel. "I have been long dreaming to have a career-defining fight. There is not much time for me in this sport at 37 years old.

"I would humbly inform you and the WBO that I have painfully decided to vacate my title, which has meant the world to me. I have held the WBO title for 10 years in three divisions. ... I owe my successful career to the WBO."

Nietes (42-1-5, 23 KOs), 37, and Palicte (25-2-1, 21 KOs), 28, fought to a controversial draw in September for a vacant belt.

Palicte sought an immediate rematch and was denied. Instead, Nietes was permitted to face former three-division titlist Kazuto Ioka, of Japan, and defeated him by split decision on Dec. 31 to win the vacant title. But Palicte knocked out Jose Martinez in the second round on Jan. 31 in a world title eliminator to earn a mandatory rematch with Nietes.

Nietes had no interest in facing Palicte again in a fight that would do little to enhance his legacy or bank account.

"His wish is to look for bigger fights to enhance his legacy and achieve his ultimate dream before hanging up his gloves," Nietes promoter Michael Aldeguer of ALA Promotions wrote to Valcarcel. "A rematch with Aston Palicte is an emotional and mental challenge for him as he went through a very difficult stage after their first fight which ended in a controversial draw, and fighting a fellow Filipino again who is from the same region where he was born makes it even more difficult."

Nietes has won world titles at strawweight, junior flyweight, flyweight and junior bantamweight to join countrymen Manny Pacquiao, with titles in a record eight weight divisions, and Nonito Donaire, with belts in four divisions, among his country's all-time best.

Palicte will be ordered to face the next leading available contender for the now vacant 115-pound belt.