By Keith Idec
Bob Arum doesn’t apply unnecessary pressure on Mercito Gesta by making comparisons to his wildly popular countryman.
“The only similarities between Gesta and [Manny] Pacquiao is that they’re both southpaws and both Filipinos,” said Arum, whose company, Top Rank Inc., promotes Pacquiao and Gesta. “But they’re totally different fighters. He doesn’t have the same skill set as Pacquiao. He’s skilled, but it’s a different skill set.”
The Hall-of-Fame promoter hopes, however, that Gesta is ready to take the next step in a pro career he began as 16-year-old nearly nine years ago in the Philippines. The unbeaten Gesta, 24, will meet Ty Barnett, of Washington, D.C., in a 10-round fight tonight that’ll be broadcast by ESPN2 from Texas Station Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas (10 p.m. EDT).
“It’s an absolutely crucial fight for him,” Arum said, “because if he’s successful in this fight we hope to have him fight for a lightweight title in his next fight.”
If Gesta gets past Barnett (20-2-1, 13 KOs), Arum plans to pursue a fight against IBF lightweight champion Miguel Vazquez (31-3, 13 KOs). Mexico’s Vazquez is undefeated since he moved down to lightweight 3½ years ago, but Barnett appears much more beatable.
Still, Barnett stands at least three inches taller than Gesta (25-0-1, 13 KOs) and has a better record than anyone Gesta has fought. Barnett’s resume mostly has been built against ordinary opposition, but Gesta recognizes the importance of his performance in this “Friday Night Fights” main event.
“He’s a tall guy,” said Gesta, a San Diego resident raised in the Philippines. “I think he has a good straight right hand, so I’ll just be careful of that.”
Gesta stopped Colombia’s Oscar Cuero (15-8, 12 KOs) in the eighth round of his last fight, April 14 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. After flooring Cuero in the seventh and eighth rounds of that fight, Gesta wants to win even more impressively against Barnett.
“It’s really important because people want to see me in the ring and a lot of people can watch me,” Gesta said. “I need to do good because it’s [on] ESPN. I think I’m there. I’m ready for a big fight. I feel like I’m ready to go to the top.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.