At 25-0-1 with 13 knockouts, Philipines-born but San Diego-residing lightweight contender Mercito “No Mercy” Gesta has been a professional fighter for roughly eight years. He’s only 24 and approaching both his physical prime and that most precious of places for a developing fighter. Currently The WBA has Gesta at #6 and the IBF ranks him #10. It is here where Gesta needs to prove to everyone around him and himself that he is indeed champion material. Friday night from the Texas Station Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, he will once again get to show that he belongs when Gesta headlines in a face-off with Tye Barnett, 20-2-1 with 13 knockouts of Washington, D.C. on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights.
This is Gesta’s second fight of 2012 and while the Top Rank-promoted fighter and his trainer/manager Vincent Parra aren’t unhappy at all with how they have been moved, they are chomping at the bit for a title shot or at least a meaningful fight against a dangerous name.
“We’ve been ready for a title and I have been waiting for a big shot,” Gesta told Maxboxing.com this Monday. “Sometimes things happen like this. We just continue what we are doing until we get there. We just keep saying we want a title shot and hopefully they can give it to us. We’ll just keep doing what we do.”
Parra and Gesta understand that as the tension builds during this wait for a big fight, each appearance becomes magnified. In an era that is seeing Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao’s career wind down, the pressure to replace him grows each day as well. Gesta certainly looks the part. He’s a good-looking kid with tats and charisma. What he is lacking right now is that electrifying performance that makes boxing fans stand up and demand to see him again against the likes of Adrien Broner or the winner of Antonio DeMarco vs. John Molina, Jr.
“He knows that every performance is an opportunity to make a statement to make a case to try and get the big fights,” said Parra. “It goes without saying he needs to look good, even better than most guys because of the bar that has been set by Manny Pacquaio. We realize that each and every time out, we will be criticized more than any other contenders. But this is where Mercito is comfortable. There’s no question he has skills. If he is right, we have no doubt there is no one in the world he isn’t capable of dealing with.”
As he goes along under the expert matchmaking of Top Rank’s Brad Goodman and Bruce Trampler, Gesta is getting more rounds and experience under his belt. He has gone 28 rounds in his last three fights, the last of which was an eighth round stoppage of Oscar Cuero. At the very least, while he has been going deep into fights with second-tier opposition, there is improvement as evidenced by the stoppage. Finishing late can be an art unto itself. It is certainly a skill. Though he has been boxing professionally since he was 16, Gesta is still growing as a fighter. It says here, his fighter’s identity is still being formed.
“I think every fight I am learning new stuff,” said Gesta. “I think every fight I am getting better and better. But it depends on who the opponent it is so we can study each opponent. I feel I am still young. I am still learning but I am getting there.”
Gesta has worked with some of the best fighters in the world at various gyms in sparring sessions. He has the tools to not only hang with them but compete at a high level. But he has yet to break through when it matters most. Parra believes only a top opponent can bring out the very best of Gesta.
“He has developed into a place right now that in order to step up, we can do all the work but in order to step up we need that big fight. We need that top guy to bring out that experience and to develop this experience,” said Parra who also emphasized they were not looking past a hard-nosed Washington, D.C. fighter like Barnett. “Guys like Tye Barnett, we don’t look past guys like him. He is capable. Development-wise, we’ll see. A fight could last ten minutes or it can last ten rounds. We’ll see where he is at developmentally. But he is at where he needs to be in with top competition in order for him to step up and step up his skill-set as well.”
In Barnett, Gesta faces a fighter who is two fights removed from a third round knockout loss to Andrey Klimov last May. Klimov was 10-0 at the time. In 2009, Barnett was knocked out in one round by 9-2-1 Juan Santiago. He’s won two in a row against opposition with a combined 22-74-5 record since then. So this fight is what it is: Another chance to look great against an opponent who will be game but overmatched. Still, Gesta is prepared for the worst. He explained the potential dangers in Barnett’s game.
“He is confident. He thinks he is going to beat me. That is not going to happen,” said Gesta. “I’ve watched some of his fights. He is long. His reach is long. The danger is his straight punch. He jabs, jabs, and then throws his straight punch. The speed? I don’t think he has the speed. I don’t think the guy can beat me. He says stuff like he is going to beat me but I don’t think so. I got his style. We’ve been studying the way he moves and I think the danger is his straight punch and getting past the jab. But I have been studying this guy and I got it.”
Parra agreed with the assessment.
“He can punch a little bit,” he said. “He has some good amateur experience. He has been in the gym since he was a little kid. he can box and punch a little bit. Like anybody, Mercito has a bull’s eye on him right now. [Barnett is] confident. He has a good team around him. So he is capable but he’s mentioned that Mercito is stepping up to fight him. And that’s good. Everybody has to do what they have to do to pump them up. We don’t like to talk. Our confidence on our team is when Mercito is in 100% condition and we’ve done all the work in camp and we’ve had all the sparring. So right now we are confident because we feel we did do everything better than this guy. He’s said he is going to bang and get us out of there so we are excited. We are going to have a lot of new stuff and we are excited to try it out. We’re looking forward to Friday.”
Friday is yet another chance to convince the public that and himself that Mercito Gesta is a future contender in this business to be reckoned with. The rounds will tell the truth of that.
“I feel confident. Like every fight, I am learning,” said Gesta. “I just can’t wait to get a big title shot. Every fight I have to show, every fight I have to prove my skills. All I do is get ready for the fight. I am a fighter. All I need to do is get ready for the fight and get in there and win.”
“This sport is all about timing,” said Parra. “We just need to be ready when the opportunity presents itself.”