Mercito Gesta looks forward to being an underdog versus Jorge Linares
Mercito “No Mercy” Gesta didn’t hesitate answering the door once opportunity knocked.
“I made the call to his team. It was probably one of the easiest fights I’ve ever made,” said Golden Boy matchmaker Roberto Diaz, at the podium of Tuesday’s press conference formally announcing the date. “I got a call back within maybe 45 minutes and they said, ‘Send us the contract; we’re in.'”
On January 27, at The Forum in Inglewood, California, Gesta, 31-1-2 (17), will be making his HBO debut, in his second attempt at a world title, when he faces WBA lightweight titleholder Jorge Linares. In December 2012, Gesta was outboxed and outpointed by then IBF lightweight titlist Miguel Vazquez, on the HBO Pay-Per-View undercard of Juan Manuel Marquez-Manny Pacquiao IV, but plenty has changed in the five years since. Fresh off stealing one heart, he hopes to take another in this opportunity in an interview with UCNLive.com.
“Actually, when my team adviser told me, ‘Bro, this will happen against Jorge Linares,’ then I asked when. He said January 27. I told him right away, ‘Let’s do it!'” Gesta said about what happened in the mere 45 minutes it took to call back Diaz. “I just got married in October and I told my wife, ‘We’ll just do the honeymoon after, ’cause I have a big fight coming up.’ She understood.”
Although he had just taken part in the presser, and had known about the fight a month or so, the fact he would be challenging Linares still hadn’t quite hit him. “Probably when I’m entering the ring,” he admitted. He didn’t have a chance to look Linares, 43-3 (27), in the eye on this day because the Venezuelan was training in Japan for the fight but Gesta knows him well, having been a sparring partner years ago when Jorge trained with Freddie Roach.
“He has the skill but through my experience – I have been professional since I was 15 – I’ve sparred some good fighters,” said Gesta about what he remembers in those sessions with Linares. With Roach in his corner, and alongside for the interview, Gesta continued, “Every style is different. There’s fighters that’s good with timing. There’s fighters good with just speed. There’s fighters that sting once they hit you. He’s a good fighter in a different way. Sparring is real important in the training because that simulates the real fight but, when he goes in the real fight, he has smaller punches. So it’s just a matter of who is gonna get scared from the hard hitter. Me, I’m just gonna go there, try to steal his heart, be aggressive but be smart in the fight.”
Born in Mandaue City, Philippines, and now living in San Diego, California, Gesta also turned 30 in October and, having spent half his life as a professional already, he’s looking forward to being the massive underdog because it’s not always fun being expected to win.
“I grew up in the Philippines, on an island. Getting the hype back then, it makes me just lazy,” he recalled about the years being a teenage prospect. “At least I have that experience back then in how to handle that whenever – especially winning this fight – I know how to handle and always just train hard and look where I started.
“I never had that feeling for awhile and now that I have that feeling that I am underdog, I’m thinking there is nothing to lose for me. I get hungrier because people think that I have little chance against this guy. That’s what I like because it makes me train hard and I don’t know about Linares if he’s taking this serious, but if he’s not, it’s gonna be tough for him. I’m gonna go and show the fans a real fight.”
The contest will open an “HBO Boxing After Dark” doubleheader (10:30 p.m ET/ 7:30 p.m. PT). Lucas “El Machina” Matthysse, 38-4 (35), who was also at the presser, will face unknown and unbeaten Thai contender Tewa Kiram, 38-0 (28), in the main event, at welterweight.
As Diaz explained at the podium, Gesta signed with Golden Boy looking for the big fights, after his subsequent release from Top Rank and only defeat. An injured shoulder took him out of 2016 entirely after a unanimous decision win over Miguel Angel Mendoza but, in the two fights since, Gesta has looked fully rejuvenated in as many wins, the latter being a knockout at the Forum last July. Surely the only way Gesta can convince fight fans that he has a shot against Linares will be by actually competing on fight night, which can go a long way for guys not given a chance.
“I know it’s gonna be a tough fight,” Gesta said in his short time at the podium. “I’m the challenger; I’m the underdog in this fight but I love that feeling. A lot of people may say, ‘He has no chance winning in this fight,’ but you know what? That makes me work hungrier. That makes me want to train hard but smarter. I will do everything to get that belt and win that fight. I can’t say what can happen the ring because it didn’t happen yet but, one thing for sure, I can tell; I’ll be a good show in that fight.”