By Felipe Leon
Photos: Felipe Leon
After a little more than a year after signing with Top Rank, undefeated lightweight Mercito “No Mercy” Gesta (25-0-1, 13KOs) is finally getting his turn under the lime light when tonight from the Texas Station Casino in Las Vegas, NV, he takes on the brash Ty Barnett (20-2-1, 13KOs) of Washington, D.C., in the scheduled main event of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.” Despite the ten rounder marking the first time Gesta of San Diego, CA, by way of Cebu, Philippines, will be featured on the classic broadcast, for him it’s just another day in the office.
“For me it’s just another fight. I just need to be in shape, for me it’s not really big because it is not a title fight,” the southpaw Gesta said after a light session in San Diego before his short trip to Las Vegas. “I still don’t underestimate him, I still train hard for it but for me a title shot is a big thing.”
For Vince Parra, Mercito’s trainer and co-manager for the last three and half years, the ESPN slot is a little more than the Telefutura or Fox Sports cards Gesta had been previously plying his wares. For Parra the opportunity is an audition of sorts for the bigger cable networks, i.e. HBO and Showtime, who for the most part make the boxing world go round, “this is the opportunity for Mercito to get his name in front of the regular boxing fan.”
Since signing with Bob Arum, Gesta has been steadily facing a batch of opponents well orchestrated by Top Rank in hopes of teaching him the experience needed by a fighter who began his professional career as a teenager with hardly if any amateur experience. In his first fight with the Las Vegas based company, Gesta stopped Jorge Pimentel in three rounds on the under card of Brandon Rios’ destruction of Urbano Antillon in July of last year. Mercito then went the ten round distance with Manuel Perez and former title challenger Ricardo “Pelon” Dominguez before stopping Oscar Cuero in eight rounds in his last April.
“Mercito’s resume is not full of world beaters but he has fought decent guys and for some of the guy’s that have got their shot on HBO already, as far as for him with no amateur experience and beaten everybody that he has fought, I don’t see his body of work any worse than a Danny Garcia when he got his shot on HBO or a Adrien Broner coming up,” Parra explained, “If anything, he has fought good able guys. The last two guys that he beat, they have won their last two fights in a row. We know that they are not A+ opponents but… Ricardo Dominguez fought for a world title twice and held his own versus Humberto Soto. I am not putting anything on that but we fight who is willing to fight us.”
The seven-year veteran Barnett who in twenty-three fights has faced the likes of Johnnie Edwards, Juan Santiago, Pavel Miranda and Andrey Klimov and is coming off two straight wins over Damon Antoine and Robert DaLuz. The outspoken Barnett has told anybody who will listen that in his eyes, Gesta is overrated and no “Manny Pacquiao.” The affable yet low-key twenty-four year old Gesta mentioned that Barnett’s comments don’t bother him but help with the promotion, “This guy, we don’t think this guy is a threat. We’ll let him talk and we’ll find out in the ring. It’s good for him to talk so that people know about it but I’m not the type of guy to talk back. I’m here training, let him talk and we’ll see in the fight.”
One who was willing to dig a little back was Parra, “He has nothing that we haven’t seen. He hasn’t shown too much respect for Mercito. Ty Barnett is going to come to fight and we hope he does. We are going to do what we always do which is to pick him apart and dominate him and then execute him.”
One drawback that critics tend to point out of Gesta is that he is a slow starter in his bouts but in the case of Cuero, both fighter and trainer insist that wasn’t the case.
“Actually the guy is tough,” Gesta said regarding the Colombian who had never been stopped before. “In his previous fights he was tough too, he fought good guys. He has gone to decisions. I don’t think he was a guy to go down in the first round. He kept running and holding until I found the timing and got him.”
“Our plan was to finish it if we had the opportunity to knock the guy out but the guy was being smart, holding, running. I wanted to finish it but I had to find a way to knock this guy out or drop him and we went with the body shot and knew eventually he would get hurt and stop running and we got him.”
Parra agreed with his fighter, “It is hard to beat a guy that doesn’t want to fight. That guy probably made up his mind from the get go that he was outgunned and he was just out to survive. We had watched him before and that guy just doesn’t get stopped. The body work took him down but it is a little harder to get a guy out of there that doesn’t want to engage.”
Soon after his April showing, talks began to swirl on the internet of a possible Juan Manuel Marquez match up at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas, for July. Gesta mentions he was excited but cautious of not getting ahead of himself. “At first when they told me about it, I got excited. I wanted to make it official. It got to the point where Marquez said yes and I was really excited. We were already thinking of going to Big Bear for camp. When it didn’t happen, I felt disappointed. I thought about the money but it wasn’t new to me because it has happened often to me in my career. I just thought I need to keep going, soon someday it will come to me.”
Now with ESPN knocking on his door and Gesta ready to answer on Friday night, the only person standing in his way to that “someday” in the future is Barnett. The five feet, eight inches tall Gesta says he is more than ready for the challenge and knows what to look for in the style of his much taller opponent.
“We’ve looked at some of his video,” said Gesta of Barnett who stands 5’10”. “He loves to throw a straight punches, we have seen his right hand and we have worked on some techniques on how to land punches on this guy.”
With a large contingent of San Diego followers making the trek to Sin City to watch their adopted son in action, Gesta as well as Parra are predicting a fun night for those involved except maybe for one Ty Barnett. “It is going to be a good fight and people are going to like it. This guy has been talking some stuff about our fight and what he is going to do against me and you know what? He needs to prove it, he needs to do that. I am there, I am ready and if he is ready that is good because we will give the people a good show.”
“I don’t see Ty Barnett surviving more than five rounds. We are going to test him often and early and he has been talking and let’s see if he can back it up,” Parra stated. “If he wants to box, he is going to get out boxed and if he want to fight, we’ll be ready, we’ll be ready for anything he wants to bring to the table.”