By Jake Donovan
Not the lingering memories of their draw verdict last September nor landing on the wrong end of a potential 80/20 purse split will discourage Aston Palicte from pursuing a title fight rematch with Donnie Nietes.
So much, that the diminutive Filipino and his team celebrated the recent news of the World Boxing Organization (WBO) attaching a shorter-than-usual turnaround time for the two sides to agree on terms for a proposed sequel.
“(Monday), we were delivered the letter to begin negotiations,” Keith Veltre, CEO of Roy Jones Jr. Boxing Promotions (RJJBP)—whom promotes Palicte—told BoxingScene.com on Tuesday. “They gave us 15 days to reach an agreement or else it will go to a purse bid.
“We want to make it clear, Aston will next fight for the WBO 115-pound title. Whether that comes against Donnie Nietes in a rematch, is up to Nietes and (ALA Promotions) to decide.”
The pair of super flyweights from the Philippines previously met in a vacant title fight last September, only for their HBO-televised clash to end in a widely-disputed 12-round draw. The bout wasn’t particularly action-packed, but still unforgivable of judges Robert Hoyle (116-112, Palicte) and Daniel Sandoval (118-110, Nietes) to land six rounds apart.
Judge Max DeLuca saw the contest even at 114-114, leaving the title vacant and the two boxers to ultimately travel separate paths towards the same destination.
Nietes (42-1-5, 23KOs) was permitted to advance to an immediate second crack at the title, facing Kazuto Ioka in a battle of former three-division titlists last New Year’s Eve in Macao, China. Yet another scoring controversy ensued, this one declaring a winner as Nietes claimed a split decision and the title to close out 2018.
The bout was granted on the condition that the winner would next defend versus its ordered mandatory, which was filled just one week ago. Palicte stormed into the top slot on the strength of a brutal two-round destruction of Puerto Rico’s Jose Martinez in their late-January final eliminator in Alpine, California.
A mere four days later, the WBO sent letters to the promotional staff at ALA Promotions (Nietes’ handlers) and Roy Jones Jr. Boxing Promotions (Palicte). Such ordered mandatories are normally accompanied by a 30-day free negotiations period, meaning the two sides can talk in hopes of reaching a deal before the sanctioning body assigns a purse bid hearing.
However, Nietes and his handlers began making noise immediately after the 36-year old’s win over Ioka about pursuing bigger game. As much wasn’t lost on Palicte’s team.
“We’re not getting a warm and fuzzy indication that Nietes wants the (rematch),” Veltre believes. “We’ve seen comments he and (ALA Promotions) have made about chasing unification bouts, or maybe a bigger money fight with Roman Gonzalez or Juan Estrada. That’s why we went the mandatory route, to make sure Aston gets his deserved title shot.
“This is now twice that Aston has taken the long road to get to this point. We didn’t complain when the WBO let Nietes leapfrog him to fight Ioka. We also understand that Donnie is looking for a bigger opportunity. But we are looking for a title shot—a rematch with Donnie Nietes or for the vacant title against the next highest-rated contender.”
External concerns stem from recent comments made by Nietes and team members at ALA Promotions of preferring more lucrative fights at this stage of his career.
The 115-pound division boasts more lucrative options than at perhaps any other point in history. Bouts with the likes of World (lineal) champ Srisaket Sor Rungvisai or a slew of former title claimants in Ioka, Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada all representing career-best paydays for a veteran such as Nietes.
It remains to be seen how a potential purse bid hearing for Nietes-Palicte II would play out. The minimum accepted bid will be $100,000 with a split of 75/25 in favor of the champion should he defend in his home country or 80/20 for a fight anywhere else in the world.
Nietes received a reported purse of $50,000 for his first fight with Palicte, whose take for the night was a reported $25,000.
Far more figures to be made for a rematch, especially with RJJBP now armed with an exclusive deal through UFC Fight Pass. Palicte’s aforementioned knockout win over Martinez streamed live on the platform, where his promoters hope to bring this ordered title fight.
“We are ready to go and have the utmost confidence in winning a purse bid should it come to that,” Veltre insists. “With our deal through UFC Fight Pass, we can literally afford to order an immediate purse bid hearing should it come to that. We just want Aston to have another shot at winning the title and are open to negotiate at length with the Nietes camp.
“If a purse bid is ordered after 15 days, it will likely wind up around February 24 or 25. If Nietes wants an extension in order to continue talks and it makes sense, we have no problem with it. If it’s because he wants another fight, then he will have to vacate his WBO belt because we will not agree to step aside and have Aston waiting any longer than necessary for a title shot that he deserves.”