William Zepeda provided cause for celebration on his nation’s biggest holiday.
The unbeaten contender overwhelmed former title challenger Mercito Gesta en route to a sixth-round stoppage atop a Mexican Independence Day-themed show. The 27-year-old southpaw from San Mateo Atenco, Mexico overwhelmed the San Diego-based Filipino from the start and forced the stoppage at 1:31 of round six in their DAZN-aired main event Saturday evening from Commerce Casino in Commerce, California.
Gesta never showed fear at any point in the fight and offered a world class chin for much of it. Zepeda did not waste any time to unleash his normally high-octane offense, other than a brief break when his mouthpiece was dislodged midway through the round. He immediately cut off the ring to pin down Gesta and remove any chance of lateral movement from the Filipino southpaw.
“I knew from the first round that we had him,” Zepeda said of his belief that an early ending was imminent. “I knew he was a dangerous fighter. I knew that I had to keep working hard to break him down.”
Zepeda unloaded in round two and never really turned back. Gesta spent much of the frame pinned to the ropes as Zepeda landed right hooks and left hands virtually at will. The final 30 seconds of the round saw Zepeda throw and land a barrage of power punches as Gesta was trapped but able to rely on his world class chin.
The same pattern held true in round three, after which point Zepeda already landed 158 total punches. Gesta was able to enjoy modest success in singular moments during round four in a desperate attempt to slow down the relentless Zepeda.
Blood began to flow from a cut under Gesta’s right eye in round five. The wound was the least concerning matter among his team, as Gesta appeared to have the fight beaten out of him. Zepeda landed a crushing right uppercut before he continued to batter Gesta with power punches at an otherworldly clip.
Referee Jack Reiss and the ringside doctor both gave Gesta a long hard look in between rounds. Head trainer Marvin Somodio already had thoughts about stopping the fight but wanted to gauge his fighter’s body language and perhaps give him one more shot.
Zepeda made that decision an easy one for everyone involved.
Gesta attempted to turn the tide early in round six but it didn’t take. Zepeda dug hooks and left hands to the body which completely broke down Gesta and left him unable to flee from harm’s way. The Filipino covered up and sat on the ropes as Zepeda continued with his two-fisted attack. Gesta’s corner climbed the ring apron just as Reiss waved his arms to stop the contest.
Zepeda stormed to 29-0 (25KOs) with the win, his second of the year and with a major title fight well within his sights.
“I wanted to face an experienced fighter like this,” Zepeda said. “I got what I wanted and am grateful for this victory.”
The final punch stat numbers illustrated the violent manner in which Zepeda obtained the win.
Already the owner of the lightweight mark for most punches thrown in a fight—1,536 in his twelve-round win over former IBF junior lightweight titlist Joseph Diaz last October 29—Zepeda was credited with landing 286-of-618 total punches (46.3%) through less than six rounds. Of that total, Zepeda landed 242-of-454 power shots, good for a 53.3% clip.
Gesta was just 62-of-202 (30.7%) in the power department and 85-of-329 (25.9%) overall as he fell to 33-4-3 (17KOs). The defeat snapped a three-fight unbeaten streak, including an upset points win over Diaz on March 18 in Long Beach, California.
The latest setback was his first since a March 2019 ninth-round stoppage to Juan Antonio Rodriguez. A subsequent six-round, technical draw versus Carlos Morales was his last fight before he ended a 29-month retirement with a ten-round decision over Joel Diaz Jr. last April. Now at age 35, there is a hard decision to come regarding his future.
Meanwhile, the sky’s the limit for Zepeda whose stock continues to rise as he is faced with opportunities abound in 2024. He is rated among the top seven of all four major sanctioning bodies.
“We want to fight whoever’s out there at 135,” head trainer Jacob ‘Panda’ Majal said of his charge. ‘He’s ready for each and every one of them. Devin Haney is the champion right now, so we would like to fight him.
Haney (30-0, 15KOs) is the lineal and unified WBA, IBF and WBO champion but is working to finalize a fight versus current WBC junior welterweight champion Regis Prograis. He was already downgraded to WBC ‘Champion in Recess’ as the main title is now at stake in the Shakur Stevenson-Edwin De Los Santos fight set for November 16 in Las Vegas.
The other three belts remain in Haney’s possession, which makes him Zepeda’s most desired target for the moment.
“I am ready for Devin Haney,” Zepeda stated in perfect English.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox