They’re called Kababayan, and these Filipinos from around the world have descended on Las Vegas for one reason—to watch national fist Manny Pacquiao take on Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand on Saturday.
Of course, noting Pacquiao’s age (32) and myriad responsibilities outside the ring as a congressman and prospective gubernatorial candidate in the Philippines, the search is on for his heir apparent.
While bantamweight champ Nonito Donaire hails from Pacquiao’s hometown of General Santos City and would come to the forefront of such discussion, another candidate from Mandaue City will introduce himself to Pinoys one night before Pacquiao-Marquez III across the street at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
“There are going to be so many people, especially Filipinos coming into watch my fight because Manny’s fighting the next day,” said lightweight Mercito Gesta (23-0-1, 12 KOs), who meets Ricardo Dominguez (34-7-2, 21 KOs) tonight. “It’s really important to me that people watch, and if I can win this, I can hopefully get that title shot next.”
Coming off a solid but not sparkling performance against Manuel Perez in September where he braved a cut over his left eyebrow to earn a rugged points victory, the 24-year-old southpaw and his manager Vince Parra spoke with BoxingScene.com about that last outing, along with the Dominguez matchup, and of course, fighting under the inevitable shadow of Manny Pacquiao.
GESTA ON HIS LAST FIGHT, A UNANIMOUS DECISION OVER MANUEL PEREZ IN SEPTEMBER:
“I learned that I could go the full 10 rounds. That guy Perez was tough. He was really strong. He’s not a big puncher, but he gave me rounds and good experience. I realized I was still O.K. after 10 rounds and not so tired. But for this fight, I’m definitely looking for the knockout.”
GESTA ON THE STATUS OF HIS CUT INCURRED IN HIS LAST FIGHT AGAINST MANUEL PEREZ:
“The cut is like it never happened. It was good after a week after the fight. It’s healed. My cutman Stephen ‘Jun’ Lunas did a good job with it.
“This wasn’t the first time I’ve been cut. I’ve been cut before and sometimes, the cut can cover your eye and mess up your vision. But for this fight, Jun was able to work on it. He put something on it and I was able to see.”
GESTA ON TONIGHT’S OPPONENT RICARDO DOMINGUEZ, WHO HAS TAKEN REIGNING TITLEHOLDERS HUMBERTO SOTO AND MIGUEL VAZQUEZ THE DISTANCE:
“We’ve been looking at the tape of Dominguez. We’ve been studying his style. I’m going to have to fight this guy more on the inside because he’s taller than my usual opponents. But we have a plan for that.
“This is the type of fight I want because I want to show people I don’t want to fight just anybody. I want to fight guys with good records and show them I’ll be ready for a title shot if I win this one. I’m glad Top Rank matched him up with me, and I’m going to Vegas to win this fight.”
GESTA ON TRAINING CAMP FOR THE DOMINGUEZ FIGHT:
“I did my camp out of San Diego, but it was good because it wasn’t that long since my last fight. I got some good sparring with Antonio Orozco and David Barragan. They gave me some really good work.
“[Dominguez] is kind of like Ivan Valle. I fought him in San Diego last year. Maybe I can take advantage and stop him like I did with Valle. I’m not saying I’m going to knock out Dominguez, but that is my plan.”
GESTA ON THE SIZABLE FILIPINO CROWD EXPECTED TO WATCH HIM ONE NIGHT BEFORE PACQUIAO-MARQUEZ III:
“Oh man, it’s like a dream come true. My career is getting bigger and bigger, and I can’t even describe it. There are going to be so many people, especially Filipinos coming into watch my fight because Manny’s fighting the next day. It’s really important to me that people watch, and if I can win this, I can hopefully get that title shot next.
“I don’t feel pressure right now with all that going on. I try to stay relaxed and stick to our gameplan. I don’t think about pressure, because if you do in the middle of the fight, it might cause you not to fight your best.”
GESTA ON ANY COMPARISONS WITH MANNY PACQUIAO:
“I’ve been hearing that a lot of times, and now I know they’re going to keep asking that if I keep winning. It’s normal now. But the truth is that there’s only one Manny Pacquiao. He’s the best. I’m going to be me, and there’s only one Mercito Gesta, too.”
GESTA ON A MESSAGE TO HIS FANS:
“To all the fans in the Philippines and everywhere else, thank you so much for your support and prayers, not just for me, but for all Filipino fighters. To everyone in Mandaue, after the fight, I’ll be back in Cebu and we’ll see each other again.”
PARRA ON WHAT THEY LEARNED FROM THE PEREZ FIGHT:
“We learned that you have to be in good condition to be able to step up and work until the late rounds of the fight. We said before the Perez fight that he had a really good chin. If it’s there, we’ll take it.
“Perez said he was going to come get Mercito, but after he kept running into the counter hook and the counter right, he kind of stopped fighting and just ran around the ring. Mercito did get a little complacent, and around the eighth, we tried to take him out, but we weren’t going to push anything. It was great matchmaking by Bruce Trampler and Brad Goodman.”
PARRA ON DOMINGUEZ:
“We see a guy who’s an opportunist. If you let him get out there, he will take advantage of your mistakes. He reminds us of Ivan Valle, but he’s been in there with some big names like Humberto Soto and Vazquez. We’ve watched those fights plenty of times.
“If we can take his confidence away, and keep throwing our combinations, we’re looking for a stoppage win. Mercito said he’s looking to stop him, but we’re going to be smart about it. Dominguez has decent pop and he’s been in there with world-class guys, but we think Mercito’s just better.”
PARRA ON HOLDING CAMP SOLELY IN SAN DIEGO INSTEAD OF GOING TO HOLLYWOOD’S WILD CARD BOXING CLUB:
“To be honest with you, we were on the fence going there in the first place with the quick turnaround between fights. And with Manny training there, it’s busy and the schedules would’ve been crazy. It’s hard to get sparring when you want it. Usually when we go to L.A., we get solitude, but this time it would be hard. We knew we were only doing a couple sparring sessions anyway.”
PARRA ON PACQUIAO TRAINER FREDDIE ROACH’S COMMENTS IN THE MANILA TIMES THAT WERE DISPARAGING TOWARD GESTA AND PARRA:
“With Freddie’s comments, anything could be taken out of context. I didn’t see them come out of his mouth, but if he thinks Mercito is not all he’s cracked up to be, then it’s his right to say that. If he doesn’t think I’m a capable trainer, it’s also his right to say that. He’s the best guy out there, so that’s all fair for him.
“But we think differently. The one thing he did say about Amir Khan beating on Mercito in sparring though was untrue. That’s the one thing that bothered Mercito. Amir had a great day the first day they worked, but I have witnesses, good writers actually, where Mercito gave as good as he took. On some days, he was walking Amir around the ring with his hands up after hitting him to the body.
“Opinions are opinions, but be truthful, that’s all. We thought we had the respect of people at Wild Card, and we thought they were our friends, and I think we still have friends up there. Until Freddie tells it to my face, it’s all speculation, but as far as Amir Khan beating on Mercito in sparring, that’s totally untrue.”
PARRA ON ANY MOUNTING PRESSURE ON HIM AS A TRAINER AS GESTA RISES TO A WORLD TITLE SHOT:
“We’re under the microscope. I’m under the microscope. I’m the American young trainer who shouldn’t have this kid, they’re saying. But me and Mercito have a good chemistry. Working with Carlos Peñalosa and others, Mercito has learned a lot.
“Look, when we started nobody thought Mercito was going to be that good, and people thought that until we signed with Top Rank. Mercito’s confident in me, and when your fighter is hungry, it takes off the pressure from you, because you can just focus on doing your job. So I just have to make sure Mercito’s in 110 percent shape and ready to go.”
PARRA ON AN UPCOMING LIGHTWEIGHT WORLD TITLE SHOT FOR GESTA:
“If we have it our way and pass a tough guy like Dominguez—and we’re not looking past him with all his championship round experience—but if we can get past him, we want Brandon Rios. We want Brandon Rios before he moves to 140 pounds in the first fight of next year, but we’re going to leave that to Bob Arum and Top Rank. No doubt though, we’re looking for a championship opportunity.”
Ryan Maquiñana is the boxing correspondent at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, and Ring Magazine’s Ratings Advisory Panel. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at www.maqdown.com or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.