by Fox Doucette
Up-and-coming Filipino junior welterweight prospect Mercito Gesta (26-0-1, 14 KOs) took care of business against now thrice-stopped opponent Ty Barnett (20-3-1, 13 KOs) in the main event of ESPN2 Friday Night Fights from Las Vegas. In the co-feature, which was promoted to that status due to changes since press time which knocked a would-be Mickey Bey-Rob Frankel fight off the docket, young junior featherweight Jesse Magdaleno (11-0, 8 KOs) scored a quick and potent knockout in the second round over Aldimar Santos (17-3, 9 KOs).
The main event raised more questions than it answered for Mercito Gesta. Gesta showed a vulnerability to counter punches early, getting caught more than once in the third and fourth rounds before finally breaking through the defense of the journeyman Barnett. In addition, Gesta’s power may not be as good as advertised; he was throwing bombs from the sixth round onward trying to close the show, but it was not until the end of the ninth that those bombs finally bore fruit, as much a mathematical matter of the cumulative effect repeated clean power blows have on any fighter’s chin as any particular power on Gesta’s part. Finally, the last shot came after the bell, showing shades of Francisco Sierra’s win over Don George on FNF a couple of years back (though nowhere near as egregious as Sierra’s frankly blatant cheap shots in that 2010 contest.)
This is not to say that Mercito Gesta did not legitimately win the fight. At only one point—the third round, which your columnist scored for Barnett—was Gesta not in control of the pace. Ty Barnett was simply not up to the challenge placed in front of him and therefore faltered in his efforts at victory. What tonight did was show a scenario where Mercito Gesta, against a better opponent in the future (perhaps a Kendall Holt or Ruslan Provodnikov at junior welter), could find himself suffering the same fate that Ismayl Sillakh did in his FNF tilt with Denis Grachev, where Sillakh’s great weakness—a tendency to get caught on the way out—met a fighter good enough and strong enough to turn that weakness into a knockout. Gesta seems headed for that same fate, a pro loss all but certain in order to wake him up and get him to work on that flaw in his defense as he comes forward. It will be interesting to see how Gesta’s handlers manage his career at this particular crossroads.
The co-feature hardly left anything to report. Jesse Magdaleno, brother of top ten junior lightweight Diego Magdaleno, is building quite a resumé of his own in there. As he begins to move up to C-level opposition from the hobo and bouncer circuit, his power seems to be moving up with him. Magdaleno blew out Carlos Valcarcel in one round on FNF in June, and now he has taken care of Aldimar Santos in two rounds. Magdaleno has aggression, power, and clearly demonstrated punching ability in both hands. Tonight may not have given us much to go on as far as Magdaleno’s ceiling, but it can only augur well for a prospect stepping up out of the gutter and bringing knockouts with him.
There was a swing bout as well; Mexican fighter Jesus Gutierrez (5-0, 2 KOs), managed by a team that includes Teddy Atlas’ “Fight Plan” assistant Saul Avelar, stepped in against a guy in James Burns (1-2, 1 KO) who seems destined either for the hobo circuit or else for a nice safe gig as a minesweeper in the Korean demilitarized zone; anything for him would probably be better than boxing if he wishes to preserve the integrity of his brain cells. Burns hardly put up a fight from the second round onward, and one would have to have been charitable to award Burns the first round. The judges had it 40-36 (twice), 39-37 for Gutierrez; your columnist had this a clean sweep for the Mexican. Gutierrez looked good but not great, showing a clear propensity for boxing rather than slugging that explains the two knockouts in his five pro fights to date. Indeed, the two guys he knocked out were one guy making his pro debut and another who came into the fight 0-3 and suffered his second stoppage loss.
Next week, ESPN travels to Cabazon, California, where Darley Perez (25-0, 19 KOs) takes on Bahodir Mamadjonov (11-0, 7 KOs) in a battle where both men will be stepping up in class to face each other; this will be something of a prospect eliminator, as it were. In the co-feature, Yenifel Vicente (23-0-2, 15 KOs) faces what will be the stiffest test of his career against a guy in Chris Avalos (19-2, 15 KOs) who is facing an undefeated fighter for the third straight time, having split the previous two. Avalos has fought much better competition; Vicente has the record. It should be an intriguing eight rounds.
Friday Night Fights airs on August 10th at 10 PM Eastern/7 PM Pacific, on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com. The Boxing Tribune will have a full preview and recap of the night’s televised action. Stay tuned—we’re the worldwide leader in covering the Worldwide Leader.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and thoughts on whether Mercito Gesta is more Manny Pacquiao or Mark Jason Melligen can be sent to email@example.com.