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The ESPN2 Friday Night Fights TV Cheat Sheet – Aug. 3, 2012

Gesta 137 lbs (Barnett 135.5 lbs) - Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank
Gesta 137 lbs (Barnett 135.5 lbs) - Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank

Tonight, two undefeated boxers try to tip the scale of importance in their favor at Top Rank Promotions, needing to impress against beatable foes to confirm their elite status. At the same time, Mercito Gesta and Mickey Bey want to convince TV executives that they deserve future consideration as headliners on ESPN2 or other networks with valuable TV dates open. The mission is to win and look good doing it; both Gesta and Bey have the table set for them and anything less than an impressive victory could be considered a setback to their championship ambitions. I don’t see this is as a great “Friday Night Fights” card but the main event has the potential to surpass low expectations on paper if Ty Barnett finally lives up to his potential.

At the Texas Station Casino, Las Vegas, NV
(ESPN2) Mercito Gesta (25-0-1) vs. Ty Barnett (20-2-1)
(ESPN2) Mickey Bey (18-0-1) vs. Robert Frankel (30-12-1)

Robert Frankel - Denver native resumes his toughman role, trying to overcome the odds to post another quality win as a sizable underdog. Frankel is a light-hitting volume puncher who goes the distance in entertaining scraps but lacks the overall talent to register more upsets. The 32-year-old does things the hard way, having no amateur experience, learning in the gym and putting newly-acquired skills into action on the fly. Frankel is tough to discourage, going the distance in tough fights against top prospects and contenders, racking up 296 rounds worth of experience. Is a hot-and-cold fighter who looks good winning a wide decision over a mid-level boxer like Bobby Pacquiao but generally loses when he steps in with elite foes. Despite power limitations (six stoppages in 30 wins), Frankel holds wins over tough veterans like Michael Stewart, Mike Gonzalez, Ramon Montano, Bobby Pacquiao and Ricardo Dominguez. A nine-year pro, winning nine of his last 12 bouts, Frankel has fought as high as 154 pounds and scaled in at 140 pounds two months ago for his last fight. Frankel lost his last two meaningful bouts, one by close majority decision to former champion David Diaz and the other, a stoppage setback to hard-punching title challenger John Molina. Entered the Diaz fight off a forced two-year layoff (jailed for domestic abuse against his wife) and his timing was obviously affected early in that bout. If Frankel had any power, some of those close defeats could have gone his direction given a solid chin and high work rate. His long arms make for a gangly, mauling style, using volume punching to smother his foes’ offense as much as to inflict damage. To win, Frankel relies on his jab, feet and jab, employing timing and a long reach to compensate for average hand speed. Seems out of his depth when faced with a mover and will lean in and brawl despite getting outfought on the inside. Another bad habit of Frankel’s is letting opponents set the pace, doing just enough to lose against good opposition instead of reverting to a plan B. Frankel believes he has the smothering style needed to upset Bey but will have to overcome tendency to bleed lately and follow his foes instead of cutting off the ring.

Mickey Bey – A slick and rangy boxer, standing 5’9” with 69-inch reach, Bey was an amateur star, producing a 151-9 record beating Brandon Rios and Dat Nguyen (twice) as well as Jason Litzau. Comes from a boxing family; his grandfather won a Golden Gloves title and Bey’s father trains amateur boxers while brother Cortez is an aspiring pro. Started boxing age 12 in the deep Cleveland and Midwest circuit, winning a National Golden Gloves and two PAL titles. Bey won the 2004 Olympic trials but missed the Olympics because of an illness, suffering from pneumonia. Has not progressed as fast as hoped in the pros (signed with Roy Jones’ promotion, then defunct TKO Promotions before this stint with Top Rank), only fighting 19 times against weak opposition eight years into his career. Floyd Mayweather Sr. trains Bey, who is self-managed, replacing high-profile James Prince and Cameron Dunkin. Bey says of his boxing, “I’m real good at adjusting to anything that’s in front of me. I was always good at picking shots and making the right moves and making punches count.” Studies and admires Sugar Ray Robinson, watching videos of greats Salvador Sanchez, Muhammad Ali, Jersey Joe Walcott and Willie Pep to improve since childhood. Even more valuable is sparring against Floyd Mayweather Jr. and other champions after moving to Las Vegas, getting hands-on experience against greatness. Bey is an orthodox boxer, says he is ambidextrous but rarely switches to southpaw, seldom needing to shift his center of balance because of quick feet and extremely fast hands. Established a 47% kayo ratio on rapid combinations, going 10 rounds with no stamina issues, concentrating on creating angles to get punches on target. Inexplicably, struggled against rugged Jose Hernandez (said he had fractures in both hands but boxed five months later), trapped on the ropes, at times looking lazy and unfocused. Showed he can go toe-to-toe in that fight but it was not necessary and Bey was dropped by ordinary Hector Velazquez in his last fight. A surprise since Bey is a hard worker in the gym and his left hook is blazingly fast, though not as powerful as Bey believes. Best win was over southpaw Wilson Alcorro, outworking and never in trouble against an awkward-punching veteran. Can get cocky in the ring and will take chances to excite fans but, at age 29, Bey’s physical prime is nearing its end without ever reaching top speed.

Verdict – The matchmaker did Bey every favor, putting him in against a slow boxer who has trouble with movers and shown a tendency to bleed when hit with combinations. Not much to analyze; the only drama comes for those who bet the fight will go the distance. Frankel has the chin, toughness and natural size advantage to last the distance but his skin has let him down lately and it will cause him problems against Bey. Because Frankel does not relent in forward movement (and has no defense), I am going to go with a cut or swelling-induced TKO in favor of Bey somewhere around the eighth round.

Ty Barnett – Bearded, lean and physically impressive boxer, this Washington D.C.-based banger only fought three times in the last two years. Grew surrounded by boxing; father and uncles were boxers, starting to box age 13, admiring Pernell Whitaker and Sugar Ray Leonard. Won city and regional titles but a pressing style that favored power over precision did not suit the amateurs. Barnett had nearly 100 amateur bouts but faltered at the National PAL, Golden Gloves, and U.S. National tourneys. Turned pro after a prison stint, crediting boxing with refocusing him and has been a pro seven years now. Barnett has a decent jab which hides a dangerous right hand that chops down more than it comes straight at opponents. YouTube footage shows little snap to his punches, though their timing is not bad, and Barnett lacks lateral movement despite long legs that should get him to a target in an instant. Has yet to get the most out of his physical assets; Barnett lost badly in two fights where the competition was elevated but eminently beatable. The losses did come after lengthy layoffs and Barnett is the type of boxer who needs to get his motor revved in the early rounds. Barnett has two solid victories, beating 18-1 Tyrese Hendrix and tough Johnnie Edwards in wide decisions. Also, sparred champions Zab Judah, DeMarcus Corley, Sharmba Mitchell, the Peterson brothers and a much bigger Fernando Guerrero. The biggest problem for Barnett is defense, not keeping his hands up allowing connects because he is missing great reflexes or the speed to block punches. Barnett’s chin is questionable, stopped in two losses, but he claims not taking the sport seriously and partying too much were more impactful than any punch. At 5’10” with an imposing reach, Barnett has a great physical package and, this year, began to take nutrition seriously, switching to a vegetarian diet. Barnett’s last two opponents combined for an unimpressive 22-74-5 record. Has undergone some trainer switches (dropping respected Barry Hunter) in the last three years, going to body more and concentrating on becoming more physical at infighting and staying on top of opponents. Barnett is not lacking in confidence, saying he understands the importance of this fight and that he will “expose” Gesta as an overrated Pacquiao wannabe.

Mercito Gesta – One great athlete can inspire an entire generation, as fans paying attention to the quality and depth of Filipino boxers emerging since Manny Pacquiao’s rise will attest. Gesta is another in that talent-rich vein, motivated by Pacquiao’s achievements and emulating his hero’s style. Combination-punching 24-year-old moved to America four years ago, becoming a constant on the gym circuit, sparring champions like Shane Mosley, Amir Khan, Antonio DeMarco and Jorge Linares. This power package is guided by trainer/manager Vincent Parra, polishing up a diamond-in-the-rough that turned pro at age 16. Hall of Fame promoter Don Chargin commented on Gesta early in his career, “Mercito’s a southpaw and he’s a vicious body puncher. He’s really starting to find his punching power and he’s fun to watch.” Though “No Mercy” Gesta has only stopped 13 opponents, sporting a 50% kayo ratio, video footage suggests considerable power based on speed that stuns on arrival. When he gets an opponent in trouble, Gesta goes all-out for the stoppage, needing to rein in exuberance for selective punching. A maturing Gesta is refining that power; it is shocking that he never fought an amateur bout (aside from Muay Thai and kickboxing), stopping six of his last eight foes while upping the level of opposition. At 5’7” with a 68-inch reach, Gesta’s size is a potential drawback against some of the bigger lightweights, so his jab and timing must improve. Naturally right-handed, Gesta throws many combinations and their speed is accentuated by accuracy and straight path the punches travel. Described his ring approach to Ryan Maquiñana, “I try to observe my opponent and see the best way to beat them. I don’t like fighting just one style because the opponent will be able to study me.” Needs work on defense where Gesta can use that small stature to his advantage by dipping more when moving away or into an opponent. Reflexively brings his hands up fast and high, sometimes leaving ribs exposed and negating countering opportunities. Overcame culture shock, which affected his training and performances, and Gesta speaks English and is a dedicated gym rat now. Soft opposition is a concern and might be why Gesta has looked so good to this point. Gym reports and talk around the ring ropes at big events suggest he is not the product of tough matchmaking. Gesta is a prospect turning into a contender in perhaps his last ESPN bout before jumping onto bigger TV platforms.

Verdict – A five-inch height and reach advantage for Barnett would factor into this fight if the D.C. native used his physical dimensions more but he often plays against it with a slow and methodical approach. Barnett will need to use every inch of his frame to protect a suspect chin and ribs or else this fight will be over quickly. I believe this Barnett is focused and better then YouTube footage suggests but he lacks the speed and movement to trouble the quicker and more fluid Gesta both at range and on the inside, where a sturdy and low center of gravity helps Gesta in backing up Barnett. Body punching ultimately gets Gesta a stoppage - I expect around the seventh round - breaking down Barnett to get more out of his speed advantage as the fight progresses, landing to the point where the referee steps in.

Prediction record for 2012: 83% (74-15)
Prediction record in 2011: 88% (138-19)
Prediction record in 2010: 85% (218-40)
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