No doubt about it, Manny Pacquiao will inspire the two Filipinos seeing action in the undercard of his mainer against Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Dec. 8 and one of them, unbeaten Mercito Gesta, could be the next Filipino world champion.
Gesta, 25, relocated to the US in 2007 and has since been unbeaten in 16 straight fights in the mainland, raising his record to 26-0-1, with 14 KOs. Now based in San Diego, Gesta is lined up to challenge IBF lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez of Mexico in a 12-rounder. Vasquez, 25, is making his fifth defense of the crown he claimed after outpointing Kim Ji-Hoon in Texas two years ago.
Gesta is training at Abel Sanchez’ state-of-the-art facility in Big Bear Lake in the mountains of Southern California, 8,000 feet above sea level. His trainer Vince Parra said he chose the facility because of its seclusion and altitude. Parra said Gesta is able to concentrate 100 percent on his training at the Sanchez sweathouse.
In an interview on YouTube, Parra said Vazquez’ style may not be crowd-pleasing because he fights cautiously but it’s effective. “I respect Vazquez for what he’s done,” said Parra. “He does what he has to do to win. He’s going to get hit but Vazquez makes you do what he wants you to do. We’ve got to be able to walk him into a knockout, show him to the party and once you get him into the door, you throw him out.”
Parra said he’s confident that skills-wise, Gesta has what it takes to dethrone Vazquez. “He’s improved every fight by leaps and bounds,” he said. “Even though we’ve been waiting for this chance for years, we think this is the right time to show what he’s capable of, that he’s an elite fighter. Top Rank laid it out for him, now it’s up to Mercito to deliver.”
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The knock on Gesta is he hasn’t faced quality opposition unlike Vazquez who went down then got up to decision Amir Khan’s tormentor Breidis Prescott and lost on points to Saul (Canelo) Alvarez twice.
Vazquez has a 32-3 record, with 13 KOs, and his only losses were decisions to Alvarez twice and Pacquiao’s last opponent Timothy Bradley. But last month, Vazquez looked a bit shaky in squeezing out a split decision over Marvin Quintero to keep the belt in New York.
Gesta’s record is 26-0-1, with 14 KOs. A southpaw, his draw was with Rey Llagas because of an accidental headbutt in the second round in 2005. Last August, he stopped Ty Barnett at 2:59 of the ninth in Las Vegas. Barnett came in with a 20-2-1 record. During his US campaign, Gesta feasted on the likes of Christian Favela twice and Genaro Trazancos twice. Favela lost on points in a pair of eight-rounders while Trazancos was stopped twice. Both Favela and Trazancos are known patsies. The first time Gesta battled Favela in 2008, the Mexican had 12 losses. In the rematch two years later, his record showed 20 defeats.
The Ring Magazine’s Doug Fischer picked Gesta as one of 10 fighters “poised to make major breakthroughs” this year. He said the 10 prospects were “on the cusp” of greatness. “They have the look of future title challengers even though they have yet to beat a top contender or fight the 12-round distance,” said Fischer. Gesta, for the record, has figured in only one 12-round bout in Tampa and that was two years ago. It was for the vacant WBO NABO Youth lightweight crown and Gesta halted Oscar Meza in four.
“Any prospect from the Philippines with above-average talent is going to attract comparisons to Manny Pacquiao, especially southpaws, but Gesta’s style is actually very similar to the fast-and-furious form of the Filipino icon’s early years,” wrote Fischer. “So Gesta better get used to the comparisons. Luckily for him, he’s a much better-than-average talent.” Fischer said Gesta’s strengths are “excellent hand and footspeed, power left, sharp jab, strong body punching, good footwork, killer instinct.” Fischer noted his weaknesses are “sporadic offense, occasional lapses in focus and sometimes waits too much.”
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The other Filipino in the undercard is Michael Farenas who takes on former Olympic gold medalist and ex-WBA/IBF featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa of Cuba in a 12-round bout for the vacant interim IBF superfeatherweight title. A lefthander like Pacquiao and Gesta, Farenas is looking to deal Gamboa the first defeat of his pro career.
Farenas, 28, is coming off a third round technical draw with Takashi Uchiyama in a WBA superfeatherweight championship bout in Saitama. He left Manila with Pacquiao last Oct. 27 and has since been hard at work in the Wild Card Gym. His manager Gerry Peñalosa arrived in Los Angeles last Thursday and finalized terms for the Gamboa fight early this week.
Farenas was booked to fight in the undercard but Top Rank hadn’t found an opponent until Gamboa came knocking on his door. Gamboa was originally slated to face Miguel Beltran. When Beltran pulled out, two other opponents were considered for Gamboa until Farenas’ name got to the table. It was a perfect match. Both Farenas and Gamboa were promised slots in the undercard but neither had an opponent.
“We got the offer when I arrived from Manila,” said Peñalosa in an overseas telephone interview with The STAR yesterday.
“I talked it over with Mike over the weekend. We asked for a higher purse and got $70,000. We signed the contract last Monday.”