Mercito Gesta entered the ring for the first time in more than two years and as the B-side opponent.
The former two-time title challenger thrived in the underdog role, flooring Joel Diaz Jr. twice en route to a well-earned ten-round decision win Thursday evening at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California.
Judges Carla Caiz (96-92), Damian Walton (96-92) and Fernando Villareal (95-93) all scored in favor of Gesta, who picked up his first victory in nearly four years atop the revamped Golden Boy Fight Night series on DAZN.
Gesta—a former two-time title challenger—forced a surprisingly aggressive pace for his first fight in more than two years. The 34-year-old Filipino southpaw from San Diego found an inviting target in the normally offensive-minded Diaz, who had to overcome an early deficit after twice hitting the deck in the opening round. A straight left hand by Gesta sent Diaz to the canvas barely one minute into the round, with a combination driving him into the ropes and back down moments later.
The corner for Diaz expressed immediate concern, insisting he only had one more round to turn things around. The scared straight tactic worked to a degree, as Diaz—normally a brawler—remembered to box and not leave himself open for Gesta’s effective straight left.
Diaz used rounds three and four to establish his desired distance, though Gesta eventually found a way inside. Diaz worked behind his long jab but couldn’t land anything of substance behind it. Gesta managed to snap back Diaz’s head following a pair of straight left hands.
An accidental headbutt left Diaz with a cut in round five but able to fight through the pain. Gesta wasn’t able to capitalize, though he relied on slick infighting skills to avoid the incoming from Diaz who followed his corner’s urging to let his hands go.
Gesta was back on the attack in round seven, stalking Diaz and consistently landing upstairs with power shots. Diaz managed to avoid the canvas but couldn’t adjust his defense quick enough to avoid a pair of right hooks and a straight left hand.
Diaz enjoyed a bounce back round in the eighth, wading through Gesta’s more telling blows to land in bunches off the ropes. Gesta was still successful with his left hand but struggled to guard against Diaz’s combinations down the middle.
Two-way fatigue was evident as action slowed in round nine. Gesta moved around the ring while flicking with his jab. Diaz was more direct in his approach, though not always finding his target even when managing to corner the crafty Filipino.
Gesta bounced on his toes as he let loose a straight left hand to start the tenth and final round. Diaz took the shot well, working his way inside to smother Gesta’s punches while firing off left hooks and looping right hands.
The win advances Gesta’s record to 33-3-3 (17KOs), his first victory in more than three years. The veteran contender hadn’t fought since November 2019 and hadn’t won since a ten-round majority decision over Robert Manzanarez in June 2018.
Diaz falls to 26-3 (22KOs) with the defeat, snapping a two-fight win streak that took place in Mexico. The 30-year-old fringe contender was stopped in each of his previous two defeats, going the ten-round distance on Thursday and for just the second time in his career.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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