By Jake Donovan, photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank
Mercito Gesta continues to bide his time while being groomed for a future title shot. The unbeaten southpaw kept active with a ninth round knockout of Ty Barnett in their ESPN2-televised main event Friday evening at Texas Station Casino in Las Vegas.
Gesta came in at his normal weight of 137 lb, while Barnett was slightly lighter at 135 ½ lb.
A competitive fight was never really promised on paper, but Gesta figured to get in a good night’s work against the D.C.-based veteran. He would barely get that, as Barnett was hurt on several occasions, including in the very first round as Gesta immediately went on the attack.
The pressure from the unbeaten lightweight was steady throughout the contest, but missing in the early rounds was a true sense of urgency. Gesta was content with exploiting obvious openings, rather than creating on his own. Barnett managed to box his way out of trouble as the bout approached the middle rounds, holding his own in a fourth round that was the most competitive of the fight.
Signs of a hungry fighter surfaced in round five, when Gesta badly rocked Barnett with a straight shot to the chin. Barnett managed to remain upright, but wobbled to the ropes and then to another side of the ring as his legs resembled wet spaghetti strands. The fringe contender managed to survive the round, but was in worse shape than at any other point in the fight.
Things would get worse for Barnett, though he managed to extend the fight deeper than expected before eventually getting got. Gesta once again slowed down just enough to turn a fight into a boxing match, perhaps fine with getting in rounds. A straight left hand had Barnett stunned in round seven, but Gesta let him off the hook and went back to boxing rather than banging.
The budding contender woke up late in the ninth when it became obvious that a vulnerable opponent was there for the taking. Barnett was floored with less than a minute to go in the round and in retrospect probably should have been disallowed to continue. Instead, he steadied himself just long enough to convince referee Jay Nady to allow the fight to continue.
Barnett nearly survived the round and in fact heard the final bell just before the final punch of the fight. Gesta was on the attack and had Barnett stumbling around the ring as he was in the midst of throwing a final one-two combination. The one and the two were separated by the bell, but came quick enough to where the referee just picked up the count from the official timekeeper at ringside.
It was doubtful that Nady was going to allow the fight to continue, as Barnett staggered abound while taking the count. The fight ended when Barnett’s head trainer climbed the ring apron and clutched the fighter’s head into his arms, informing the ref that they were done for the night.
The official time was 2:59 of round nine.
Gesta moves to 26-0-1 (14KO) with the win, his fourth since signing with Top Rank last summer. None have featured much in the way of escalated competition. In fact, he seems no further along than in his breakthrough performance two years ago, when he knocked out Oscar Meza on Telemundo.
Friday’s fight against Barnett – who falls to 20-3-1 (13KO) – represented more of the same in terms of competition level he continues to see, despite repeated insistence from his handlers that he’s well within position for a future title shot.
To his credit, Gesta believes he’s ready for more than what has been given thus far, at least if his post-fight comments are to be taken seriously.
"I want Adrien Broner next," Gesta stated after the fight to Boxingscene’s Ryan Burton, who was on hand at ringside. "He is a good fighter. He is one of the best and I want to fight the best. So why not? He says he's the best so he should fight me."
A more likely scenario from the perspective of fighters (and their promoters) Top Rank is willing to work with is current top-rated lightweight Miguel Vazquez, who in fact is co-promoted by the Vegas-based company. Gesta seems fine with any given title shot, no matter who against.
Hopefully his next chosen opponent will proper reflect that determination, because Gesta has moved as far sideways as a prospect-turned-contender should have to go and his fans should have to watch.
Jesse Magdaleno made the most of his upgrade to the televised portion of the show (more on that below). The 20-year old super bantamweight prospect made quick work of Aldimar Silva, dropping the Brazilian three en route to a second round stoppage.
Magdaleno came out with knockout on his mind from the opening bell. Silva was hurt early in the fight and dropped towards the end of the first round courtesy of a right hand upstairs. The evening would only get worse, as Magdaleno’s perfect blend of speed and power proved to be a deadly mix.
Two more knockdowns came in round two, one midway through and one to ultimately end the fight. The final knockdown once again came courtesy of a right hook, as Silva hit the deck hard. Referee Robert Byrd, having twice already giving the visiting fighter a chance to fight back, opted to end the fight right then and there.
The official time was 2:54 of round two.
Magdaleno improves to 11-0 (8KO) with the win and gets to attend the very same venue tomorrow night, this time as a spectator as older brother Diego Magdaleno headlines a Telefutura card.
Silva falls to 17-3 (9KO), now 0-2 outside of his native Brazil.
The early ending allowed for a televised swing bout, which meant unscheduled face time for Jesus Gutierrez (5-0, 2KO). The Vegas-based super lightweight entertained the hometown crowd in taking a four-round decision over 19-year old James Burns (1-2, 0KO). Scores were 40-36 (twice) and 39-37.
BEY SAY MY WAY OR NO WAY
Mickey Bey Jr was scheduled to appear on the undercard against journeyman Robert Frankel, but pulled out over a dispute regarding his placement on the card.
The unbeaten lightweight was set for his first fight in more than eight months, even attending yesterday’s weigh-in. Those plans changed when Bey (18-0-1, 9KO) learned he was bumped from the co-feature slot in favor of Jesse Magadelon. No reason was given for the scheduling switch, though Jesse’s brother Diego Magdaleno headlines a Telefutura show Saturday evening in this very venue.
Frustrated over the demotion, Bey opted to walk altogether, leaving his opponent and as well as promoter Top Rank high and dry.
Frankel (30-12-1, 6KO) will still get paid, according to Nevada State Athletic Commisioner Keith Kizer, who confirmed the news to Boxingscene.com’s Ryan Burton at ringside. Where this leaves Bey depends on the language in the bout agreement, whether or not he was guaranteed a televised slot.
Bey hasn’t fought since last November, taking a disputed points win over Hector Velazquez which came off camera on a show topped by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr’s fifth round knockout of Peter Manfredo. Bey was dropped early against Velazquez and struggled throughout, though it was later learned that his subpar performance was attributed to an injury suffered during the bout.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter:@JakeNDaBox