By Keith Idec
Mercito Gesta feels he has an advantage over Jorge Linares he wouldn’t own if Freddie Roach wasn’t his trainer.
Roach once trained Linares, knows his weaknesses well and is confident Gesta can upset Linares in their 12-round fight Saturday night for Linares’ WBA lightweight title in Inglewood, California. Gesta admits that Roach’s intimate knowledge of Linares helped him gain confidence while they were working on their game plan during training camp at Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club.
“The plus side of it is he knows Linares,” Gesta said. “He trained Linares before, so I have a little bit of knowledge of how to deal with Linares because of Freddie. And also, I sparred him back then. That was a while ago, and of course, sparring is different. But at least I have a little bit of an idea of how to engage Linares.”
Gesta (31-1-2, 17 KOs) and Linares (43-3, 27 KOs) sparred three times in Las Vegas in 2011. That was before Venezuela’s Linares suffered back-to-back technical-knockout defeats to Antonio DeMarco and Sergio Thompson in 2011 and 2012.
Linares parted ways with Roach following his second-round TKO loss to Thompson in March 2012. Roach remembers Linares would “fall apart” once things didn’t go his way and he hopes Gesta gets off to a fast start Saturday night, frustrates the heavily favored fighter and initiates that type of reaction from Linares again.
The 32-year-old Linares has won 12 straight fights since Thompson stopped him.
“Hopefully with the help of Freddie Roach, I’ll win this fight,” Gesta said. “He knows Linares and he knows what to do with Linares. I just need to be in top shape and the pressure needs to be there because Linares is a good fighter. He’s slick.”
The Filipino southpaw is encouraged, too, by some of the difficulty Linares has had with left-handed opponents.
Mexico’s DeMarco, who stopped in the 11th round of their October 2011 fight, is a southpaw. England’s Luke Campbell (17-2, 14 KOs), who got up from a second-round knockdown and tested Linares on his way to a split-decision defeat September 23 in Inglewood, also is left-handed.
“I’ve seen that,” Gesta said regarding Linares’ trouble with southpaws “That’s why I’m glad I got the opportunity. And, of course, Freddie trained him before and he definitely knows how to engage this guy. We definitely have a game plan against Linares and hopefully everything in the game plan we’ve been studying and we’ve been practicing is gonna work. But I feel confident and I’m ready.”
HBO will televise Linares-Gesta as the opener of a “Boxing After Dark” doubleheader from The Forum. The main event will pit Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse (38-4, 35 KOs, 1 NC) against Thailand’s Tewa Kiram (38-0, 28 KOs) in a 12-round fight for the vacant WBA world welterweight title.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.