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The former janitor has come a long way from mopping floors of the gym where he is now a celebrated figure.

But for former WBO minimumweight champion Donnie “The Snake” Nietes, staying grounded is not a complicated task. The 29-year old prizefighter from Bacolod City exudes a very timid and soft-spoken demeanor that easily blends with his small 5’4 body frame.

But looks can be deceiving, or so the adage goes. And underneath that cool and quite exterior Nietes displays is a highly contrasting truth.

He can fight. Oh boy, he can really fight.

A world class pugilist with 28 victories (16 by KOs), a loss and three draws to his name, Nietes did what no other Filipino fighter was able to do – successfully defend his world title belt three times in Mexico.

Donnie Nietes celebrates with crew

But apart from the notable laurels Nietes accumulated in the past eight years as professional, Nietes was able to achieve all those things without the benefits that comes with an extensive amateur background enjoyed by most fighters his age. Sure, he had a short stint as an amateur, even going 1-1 against power-punching AJ “Bazooka” Banal. But money must be made and he had to work, cleaning the revered ALA Gym to earn a living. The itch to fight remained, however.

Quite simply, this man is born a fighter.

Technically sound with above decent power in both hands, Nietes is a nightmare to anyone who campaigns on or near his division. And come October 8th, 2011, he will be.

WBO light flyweight titleholder Ramon “Principe” Garcia-Hirales (16-2-1, 9 KOs) of Mexico will put his crown on the line as he fends off Nietes’ advances to nab it in front of the Filipino’s home crowd in Bacolod City.

Their championship clash will be the headliner of Pinoy Pride IX.

A victory for Nietes will usher him to the upper echelons of Philippine boxing. Only a handful of Filipino boxers can lay claim of becoming a champion in two different divisions. A successful Nietes will earn him a spot among legends that include Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire, Brian Viloria, and the Penalosa Brothers, Gerry and Dodie Boy, Sr.

With such possibility of boxing glory brewing, the former janitor remains to register a calm and collected character. For him, Garcia-Hirales is just another day in the office.

Oh, Nietes definitely knows the gravity of the situation. But that’s how he rolls.

And that makes him a likable fellow, yet a scary assignment for the one in the opposite corner.

Photo credits: AOL Latino

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Kenneth P. Ragpala is an award-winning sports blogger who has been covering the sport of boxing since 2008. His works have appeared in local newspapers in his home city in Cagayan de Oro and in several online publications abroad. Ragpala has written for several boxing websites, namely Fight Hype, 8 Count News, and Bleacher Report.