Jorge Linares: ‘I just hope Mercito Gesta is prepared physically for this fight’
Dressed to a T, his legs crossed and behind designer sunglasses, Jorge Linares has a disposition that seems like he knows something we don’t. Whether or not that was the case within his first answer to a scrum of reporters prior to Thursday’s final press conference, there was no hiding that this Saturday night is a prelude to something not only bigger but better. Looking to defend his WBA lightweight title a third time, Linares will face Mercito Gesta in the opening bout of HBO’s first broadcast of 2018 (10:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. PT), a “Boxing After Dark” card from the Forum, in Inglewood, California.
“I’m looking for a good show, a good win, KO or decision, but I need to show all the fans what I am,” said Linares, who was speaking English at the time. “Every fight, I’m different. It’s more important for me to show a good time, a good show, good fight, this Saturday night. I need to win this fight because bigger fights are coming for me.”
Four months after he edged Luke Campbell, via split decision in the same building, on HBO, Linares, 43-3 (27), enters this fight a 20-1 favorite against the WBA’s 15th ranked contender and, with it being chief support to Lucas Matthysse vs. Tewa Kiram, there’s a veiled indication of keeping the Venezuelan boxing specialist active, as the cards are being shuffled in the first quarter of 2018. That won’t keep it from being promoted as the co-main event, of course, but truth to that will really show in the amount of seats filled at the Forum because there’s no mistaking that, while he may dress the part, Linares’ talent shines far greater than his star in the United States.
“It’s not a small fight; it’s a big fight,” Linares stated about this Saturday night. “Because after this fight, a good opportunity is coming for me. Bigger fight is coming for me on HBO or Showtime, whatever, a big event. So for me, it’s important to bring a good preparation for this fight. I know Mercito Gesta. He’s younger. He has amazing team with Freddie Roach.”
Linares, 32, may have been quick to compliment his former coach but brought up his past issues, once the idea of Team Gesta having a good scouting report against him emerged.
“A long time ago, seven years ago,” Linares pointed out. “At that moment, Freddie was so busy with Manny Pacquiao. That’s why I lose two times because I never been in good training because he’s busy. After I change my coach, Ismael Salas is training with me 24-hours-a-day. It’s different when you have good connection with your coach and training. Similar with Freddie Roach and Manny Pacquiao. He’d stay all his time with Pacquiao. Now I feel this feeling with my coach Ismael Salas. That’s why I’m world champion. That’s why (my most recent) 12 fights are better and better and better.”
Later on, at the podium, Salas evoked the same argument, with Roach sitting to his left and, in this interview by Fight Hub’s Marcos Villegas, after the presser, Freddie pointed the blame right back, questioning Linares’ work ethic, his fear of blood and even calling him a “lazy fighter.”
“I have no issues with Freddie at all,” Linares said, switching to Spanish. “I have a new trainer and I’ve been doing great with my new camp. Twelve wins in a row and it shows where I’m at now. That’s why I’m the current champion.”
Gesta, 31-1-2 (17), was around Linares during his time at Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club, in Hollywood. Since then, Linares has found success, becoming sort of a world traveler, who, for now, lives in Japan, where he spent most of his training camp. Gesta, 30, had plenty of sparring with Linares, in the past, and has been a consistent gym rat over the years but just by their mere presence, side by side, it was a visual indication of which guy has had the better success in boxing.
“Every sparring is different,” Linares said, when asked if that knowledge is an advantage either way. “I sparred with the best, (Manny) Pacquiao, (Marco Antonio) Barrera, a long time ago, and sparring is different than the actual fight. I feel great. That was a long time ago when we sparred and anything can change in a year or two years, so this is definitely not going back to that sparring years ago…Some fighters do great in sparring sessions and not so good at the actual fight. Some fighters do great in the fight and not so good at sparring. So I just hope Gesta is prepared physically for this fight. I’m in my best shape and I hope he’s ready for a big fight this Saturday.”
If there’s anything to look for this Saturday night, it’s whether or not Linares remains to be an exciting opponent for other top guys in the sport, which could parlay itself into a tremendous match-up, later in the year. Linares certainly looked excited about what’s to come, when asked. Letting out a big smile that might be a reaction to the sound of a cash register in his head, Linares said, “First, maybe (WBO junior lightweight titlist Vasyl) Lomachenko at 135, then, at 140, why not (WBC lightweight titleholder) Mikey Garcia?”