By Thomas Gerbasi
It can’t be easy to be a Filipino boxer fighting two days before Manny Pacquiao meets Floyd Mayweather this Saturday in Las Vegas, and no one knows that better than Mercito Gesta, who has been asked more about his countryman’s bout than his own against Carlos Molina on Thursday in Indio, California.
“A lot of times, man, a lot,” Gesta laughs, but he takes it all in stride, knowing that it’s part of the business. But another part is knowing that he has to take care of his own business first against Molina in a clash that may be under the radar, but one that’s also one of the most intriguing this week. “It’s always going to be like that, but I need to focus on my own fight. My trainer, which is my dad, is always there and he’s always watching me, and he’s keeping me focused on my fight. I’ve been in this sport for quite a while, so I know how to do my thing too. I’m excited for the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, but I have to do mine first.”
And while Gesta-Molina may not be the most important bout in the great scheme of things this week, it could be the most important for the careers of both fighters. Molina, who has only fought twice since 2012, is coming off two losses, albeit against Amir Khan and Adrien Broner. Gesta is 28-1-1, but if he wants to get back to a world title shot after losing to Miguel Vazquez in 2012, a win is paramount. Or as he sees it, not just a win, but an impressive one.
“I think it would be really good for my record if I beat him, but I need to make sure that I really do it and not just win,” Gesta said. “I want to make sure that I look good in there because once I do that, it might put me in a big fight again. But it’s going to be a good fight. He (Molina) only lost to Amir Khan and Broner, and he did good against Broner. And even though Amir Khan stopped him in the tenth round, I could see him doing well with his counterpunching in the early rounds and he won’t fade, so he’s a tough guy.”
It is the type of win that could propel Gesta back into the top 15 at 135 pounds and put him in line for a voluntary title defense, and “No Mercy” is fine with that plan.
“I’m hoping to get that title fight,” he said. “My promoter (Golden Boy) also hopes for that, and if they can give me that, that will be good. If I do good in this one, hopefully I get a title fight before the end of the year, but right now all I’m focusing on is getting past this guy. After this, we’ll see.”
Winner of two straight over Edgar Riovalle and Luis Arceo, Gesta insists that if he gets another crack at world title honors, he will not be the same fighter as he was when he lost a one-sided decision to Vazquez in December of 2012.
“I learned a lot from that fight and gained a lot of experience,” he said. “Vazquez is a really hard fighter (to figure out). He’s good at that kind of style where he moves and does any kind of tricks to survive. I learned a lot and I’m trying to use more movement also because if you see in that fight, I’m really more flat-footed. I’m not saying that if I moved more I would have won, but that’s what I’m trying to do right now – remember that fight and look at what I did wrong. It was a good experience and I’m glad I have that experience so I can improve more.”
Following the lone loss of his career, the Mandaue City native took a break from the fight game, going home to the Philippines to unwind and forget about title shots and punching people in the face.
“After that fight, it was my first loss and I wasn’t in the mood for training,” he said. “So I went to the Philippines, visited my family and had a vacation. I tried to forget about boxing for a little bit. But by the time I was ready for a fight, I got injured in training and that made the layoff even longer. So I needed to rest again, and when I was a hundred percent, that’s when I stepped in the ring again and fought.”
In all, Gesta – who now makes his home in southern California – was out for 16 months. But when he returned against Riovalle in April of 2014, he was in love with the sport again.
“As soon as I got back in the ring, I was like ‘man, I miss this.’”
He even has his parents with him in California now, and while he needs to lay off mom’s cooking to make weight for Thursday’s bout, he has a new outlook on the sport and his place in it.
“I needed that time off to reset and I feel brand new again,” said Gesta, who has a timetable set for his return to prominence, and it starts Thursday and only picks up from there.
“My expectation is to fight with the good fighters, win well, and fight for a title before the end of 2015.”