(UPDATED) Donnie Nietes made an impressive ring comeback, outboxing Pablo Carillo of Colombia to claim the WBO international junior bantamweight title at Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai on Easter Sunday, Manila time.
Belying his age, the 38-year-old, former 4-division world champion proved he still has more left in his tank to beat his younger opponent by unanimous decision.
Carillo tried to topple Nietes by throwing heavy bombs, but the Filipino boxer demonstrated superior ring IQ, landing well-placed counter right hands and uppercuts as he circled away from Carillo's right hand.
Judges scored the bout 96-95, 98-92, 99-91 all in favor of Nietes. With the victory, Nietes improved his record to 43-1-5, while Carillo fell to 25-8-1.
"Akala ko, maitumba ko 'yung kalaban ko," said Nietes. "Medyo matibay din."
It was Nietes' first fight after being sidelined for more than 2 years. He last fought on December 31, 2018 in Macau, defeating Japan's Kazuto Ioka via split decision to win the WBO junior bantamweight title.
Nietes, however, vacated the throne after refusing to fight countryman Aston Palicte for a second time.
"Since two years na hindi ako lumaban, hindi ako nagmamadali na i-knockout ko," Nietes explained. "Naghintay lang ako sa timing na matamaan ko siya ng solid."
He said he has wanted to secure a dream fight against any of the three kings of the super flyweight division, including Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
"Pasalamat ako sa mga fans dito sa Dubai, kasi welcome na welcome talaga ako. Maraming mga kababayan dito," said Nietes.
Nietes' fight with Carillo was part of the successful "Legacy" event in Dubai, which followed strict health and safety protocols including social distancing and wearing of face masks. The boxing ring was also sanitized after every bout.
In the main event, American boxer Jamel Herring stopped Carl Frampton in the sixth round to retain his WBO super-featherweight championship.
Herring registered a big knockdown in the fifth round, but Frampton survived and made it to round six. He was knocked down again, at which point his corner threw in the towel.
Frampton, a former two-weight world champion from Northern Ireland, announced his retirement after the match. -- With a report from Randy Lamsen, TFC News Dubai.