Photo by Chris Farina
Since arriving on American shores to punch for pay, the WBO’s #2 ranked Mercito Gesta (20-0-1, 12KOs) has been on the rise-and-grind with thoughts of a world title pasted on the forefront of his mind. The 23-year-old Filipino southpaw stand-out known as “No Mercy” is inching closer and closer to having that championship on his waist as he returns to the squared circle Saturday, Sept. 17, in Parker, Arizona, at the Blue Water Resort & Casino against 27-year-old Denver, Colorado, gladiator Manuel Perez (16-6-1, 4KOs), in the 10 round lightweight main attraction of Top Rank Live broadcast on FOX Sports and presented by Top Rank in association with Showdown Promotions.
This will be the Cebu scrapper’s second tilt under Top Rank since mugging Mexican Jorge “El Tigre” Pimentel in July at the Home Depot Center in California on the under card of the Brandon Rios-Urbano Antillon WBA Lightweight Championship altercation and Gesta must continue to impress in order to capitalize on the plan Top Rank has afoot for the newest Filipino face on the scene.
“It was a good start and I just need to keep going and keep winning,” said “No Mercy” when I recently spoke with him over the telephone about his victory, Top Rank and seemingly bright future in boxing.
Gesta lays his head under the San Diego sun and the city known as “America’s Finest” has embraced the Pinoy pugilist recently showing their appreciation with a resounding reception when Mercito Gesta threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the San Diego Padres-Colorado Rockies game on Filipino Cultural Day.
“San Diego fans are really starting to take notice, the reception was great. Mercito can see that his work is paying off, it’s great motivation for him,” intoned Gesta’s trainer Vince Parra.
Top Rank also has Mercito slated to fight in Las Vegas on November 11 against a foe TBA, possibly against world title challenger Ricardo “Pelon” Dominguez (34-7-2, 21KOs) but Mercito made it clear he can’t look past the business at hand which is Manuel Perez.
“I only care about my next opponent and doing what I have to do to win,” said the WBO NABO Youth Lightweight titlist.
This will be the first time Mercito headlines a televised Top Rank card and while Gesta has been the top bill on Telefutura’s Solo Boxeo series numerous times this bout will be on FOX Sports and broadcast nationally to millions of homes.
“I have fought on Telefutura but this is FOX and it’s big. It’s going to be a good under card with Benavidez [Jose Jr.] and I’m the main event so it means a lot. It will also be shown in the Philippines and after this everyone is going to know me. All I need to do is train hard and look to show how good I am in the ring in this fight,” asserted Gesta.
Top notch sparring, would be a good way to describe what “No Mercy” has been up to in the weeks leading up to his battle at BlueWater. Some of the names on that list include fellow Top Rank/Wild Card fighter Jose Benavidez Jr. (12-0, 11KOs), who throws hands with Angel Rios (9-7, 6KOs) in the co-feature, as well as hall of famer “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Jorge “El Niño de Oro” Linares and Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi.
“Benavidez is a young, good, undefeated fighter and he brings a different style, so that is good experience for me. He helped me a lot and I really appreciate that,” enthused “No Mercy” when speaking on his recent sparring endeavors, adding, “It was like a dream to spar with such a famous champion like Shane Mosley and he’s a really nice guy. He was the one who offered to spar and help me and it was a really good experience for me. It helped my confidence to spar with such a world class champion.”
Gesta’s primary training ground is San Diego, where he practices his punches at Alliance Training Center in Chula Vista. Mercito spars with the likes of jr. welterweight prospect Antonio “Simple Man” Orozco, featherweight Aaron “Gavilan” Garcia and lightweight Antonio DeMarco when he is at home in the 619 area code but the reality is that there aren’t many top fighters like the three just mentioned with which to get in good sparring. For this reason Gesta and his team travel north to L.A. and Freddie Roach’s famed Wild Card Gym in the weeks leading up to all Mercito’s scraps.
“It was great sparring with three different fighters of the highest skill level. Mercito has benefited a lot, he’s using his head and really being pushed to the limit skill wise. Sparring with champions like Shane Mosley and Jorge Linares along with a top prospect like Jose Benavidez Jr., all in one week, it doesn’t get better than that. Mercito is learning everyday and the confidence is bringing out his best. Wild Card Gym is the best in the world right now if you want the best work, that’s why we come here,” exclaimed Vince Parra.
Manuel Perez can be a troublesome foe, he is tough, has good whiskers and stands his ground. Some might consider Perez a second-tier opponent but records are deceiving, Manuel is a capable boxer with a lot of determination and should be respected. In the last four years Perez has only lost to top competition, giving Brandon Rios everything he could handle when they fought to a draw in ’08 before Rios KO’d him in the ’09 rematch. Perez displayed he’s a fighter when he went to war with the WBA champion in their first encounter, taking all Rios’ best shots and delivering many of his own.
Parra knows they have a challenge facing them but never shows anything other than confidence in his charge, “I’ve watched some footage of Perez, he’s a tough guy with some decent skills and seems to fight with a lot of heart. We have a good idea of what we want to do, Mercito just needs to be in shape and ready to ensure victory, which he is.”
“I’ve seen him fight on Youtube and he kind of has a Rios [Brandon] style, he likes to come forward. I just need to do the same thing as in my last fight and counter punch this guy, and show more of my style in the ring,” added Gesta.
Although Gesta’s made it clear he’s only concerned with adding the next scalp to his resume, there’s always future beefs to be settled in the fight game and it’s no different for the left-handed lightweight from San Diego. Mercito Gesta and Brandon Rios have been throwing punches from the tips of their tongues at one another every chance they get and a good Filipino-Mexican rivalry has resulted. After all the words marshaled, each man yearns to give the other a proper beating and when I pointed out the problems Rios had with Perez and whether he’d be looking to supersede Brandon’s two performances against Manuel, Gesta kept it professional, “You know, I don’t know what’s going to happen, you never really know what’s going to happen but yes, I’m going to try and do better than Rios. I’m going to do my best in there and if the knockout comes, great. I’m just going to make sure I am ready for this fight.”
Mercito has been harnessing real power as of late, stopping seven of his last eight adversaries in the process of afflicting severe punishment upon them. Gesta seems to be maturing, like old wineskins ready to burst upon the ring and spill blood. While “No Mercy’s” future looks to be full of accolades, many are not convinced. More than a few pundits say Gesta is over hyped and hasn’t fought anyone worth note. They say he’s got slow feet and his hands are not as fast as the general consensus. This comes with the territory and when I asked Parra if negative media ever seems to affect Mercito in any way, the trainer replied, “We treat them the same way we treat all the positive write-ups, just words. I don’t know of many writers that have been in the ring so we just laugh it off, we’re in the gym where it’s real. All publicity is fine with us, Mercito is just happy to prove Bob Arum right, he’s our biggest supporter.”
In the 6 round jr. welterweight co-main event, highly gifted Jose Benavidez Jr. locks horns with Angel Rios, as Benavidez Jr. looks to showcase his talked about talents and prowess to the world.
Manuel Perez isn’t afraid to push the action, paired with Gesta’s lightning quick counter punching and willingness to bang once hit, this fight promises to be an aesthetically pleasing affair. Be sure to tune into FOX Sports on Sept. 17 if you can’t be ringside at the BlueWater Resort & Casino in Parker, Arizona, to witness the advancing ascent of Mercito “No Mercy” Gesta, who looks to dispute for a world title in 2012.
“I’m going to show all my fans a better Mercito and try to show improvement and hopefully my fans like it here, in the Philippines and all over. I really appreciate the support, not just from the Filipino’s but all the fans out there,” Gesta said in closing.