By Keith Idec
Jorge Linares proved the handicappers correct and his former trainer wrong Saturday night.
The WBA lightweight champion impressively proved his superiority over Mercito Gesta during their 12-round, 135-pound title fight in Inglewood, California. Linares’ hand speed, skill and combinations were too much for Gesta in the first of two fights HBO broadcast from The Forum.
Venzuela’s Linares won by big margins on all three scorecards – 118-110, 118-110 and 117-111 to make the third defense of his WBA lightweight championship.
Gesta is trained by Freddie Roach, Linares’ former trainer. Roach told BoxingScene.com recently he thought Gesta could upset Linares because Gesta could “take his heart” and “make him fall apart.”
The 32-year-old Linares (44-3, 27 KOs) won his 13th straight fight since suffering back-to-back technical knockout defeats to Antonio DeMarco and Sergio Thompson in October 2011 and March 2012, respectively.
The heavily favored Linares also beat a southpaw at The Forum in a second consecutive bout. In his previous appearance, Linares edged England’s Luke Campbell (17-2, 14 KOs) by split decision in a 12-rounder.
The 30-year-old Gesta (31-2-2, 17 KOs), of San Clemente, California, slipped to 0-2 in lightweight title fights. In his first title shot, Gesta lost a lopsided 12-round, unanimous decision to Mexico’s Miguel Vazquez, then the IBF 135-pound champ, in December 2012 in Las Vegas.
Gesta got off to a strong start Saturday night, yet couldn’t build on it. The faster, better Linares adjusted to Gesta’s quick right hook and mostly controlled the final 10 rounds of their fight.
Gesta connected with a clean right hook early in the 10th round, but Linares took it well.
Gesta attempted to get Linares off his game by showboating during the ninth round. The calm champion remained focused and continued to out-box a challenger who hadn’t had any real success since early in the fight.
A cut opened around Linares’ right eye in the eighth round. That cut, which was caused by one of Gesta’s punches, didn’t seem to affect his vision or slow his punch output, though.
By the sixth round, it became obvious Gesta wouldn’t be able to neutralize Linares’ hand speed and combination punching. Linares often opened up with crisp combinations as Gesta came forward with his hands down.
Linares comfortably out-boxed Gesta during the fourth and fifth rounds, but Gesta got his attention with a right hook that made Linares move backward late in the fifth.
Linares made some adjustments in the third round, in which prevented Gesta from connecting with his right hook. Linares also drilled Gesta with an overhand right in the third.
Gesta had some success in the first two rounds with his counter right hook. He landed that punch several times, which made Linares less active than usual.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.