Boxing: Gesta reflects on losing, revamping and rising back to contention
INDIANAPOLIS, USA - After 11 rounds, the excitement, anticipation and high hopes had turned into mush for Mercito Gesta’s first world title shot against IBF lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez in Las Vegas, Nev.
The title fight between the then-undefeated 25-year-old budding star from Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines against Guadalajara, Mexico’s young and crafty champion, whose only losses came at the hands of elite fighters such as Timothy Bradley and Saul Alvarez, was slated as the main appetizer bout before Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez’s epic fourth fight in November of 2012.
But with three minutes left in what had been a numbingly dull and one-sided affair, the only motivation the crowd had for them to get up from their seats and cheer was the fact that the bout was almost over. Gesta laid an egg, while Vazquez was more than content to pot-shot and score enough points to win a comfortable decision at the expense of even the slightest bit of drama and excitement.
Adding to the frustrations was the fact that Gesta appeared to be a willing participant in allowing his long-coveted title shot to slip away without a fight. His fate of losing on points by a large margin was as guaranteed as Pacquiao’s hangers-on and dependents lining up for “balato” (cash handouts) at his apartment in LA after each fight, but Gesta seemed more concerned about how he looked on the MGM Grand’s overhead projectors, than laying it all on the line in hopes to turn the tide of the fight and score a knockdown or a knockout.
“I don’t really know what was going on with me during that fight,” Gesta (26-1-1, 14 knockouts) told this scribe over the phone recently when asked to recount what went on in his fight against Vazquez.
“I was kind of lost in that fight,” Gesta admitted with a chuckle as he laughed off his odd and disappointing night.
“I felt like I was too relaxed. I didn’t have the fire or the killer instinct to go in there even if I’ve been waiting for that title fight for a long time,” he said and added, “and when I watched the fight (video), I don’t even know I was looking at the monitor during the fight. Maybe I was looking for a replay. That night was just weird and I didn’t feel like I was myself.”
Little did Gesta know, the loss was just the beginning of a string of unfortunate events in his boxing career.
While preparing for his return fight last summer against Ajose Olusegun, Gesta suffered a rib injury that forced him to pull out of the bout originally scheduled for July 19. The injury, Gesta disclosed, had been nagging him even prior to fighting Vazquez and finally took him out of commission after getting tagged with a perfect punch during sparring.
“I’ve had that injury even before the Vazquez fight and I thought it was just nothing. I thought it was more of muscle spasms. Good thing in the Vazquez fight, he didn’t really hit me in that region,” Gesta disclosed as I interjected and joked about how Vazquez wasn’t really looking to rough him up with too many punches and how both unlucky and lucky he was at the same time, since he wasn’t able to come up with answers against the Mexican’s frustratingly difficult fighting style.
“I was actually doing good in sparring and training, but I just got caught with a shot at the exact, perfect place at the right time. I was actually throwing a hook and I thought this guy was going to throw upward, but he threw down and I was countering with the hook, so his punch landed in the exact spot of the injury,” Gesta explained.
Always a positive thinker, Gesta took the injury as a blessing and the perfect opportunity for him to heal up, rather than suffering the injury at an actual fight and doing more damage to it by fighting through the pain.
“It’s okay. I’m happy that it happened during training rather than in an actual fight and the doctor said it’s fully healed now, so I’m ready,” said the Cebuano.
Not long after dropping from his fight with Olusegun, Gesta received a letter from promoter, Top Rank Promotions, notifying him that he was also being dropped from their stable, adding yet another blow to his career.
“The letter stated that Top Rank was cleaning house and that they were dropping Mercito from his contract citing a clause in the contact pointing to his loss as the reason why he is being released,” Gesta’s advisor Neil Macasadia revealed.
To make matters worse, Gesta had to clean house after his loss and reevaluate his team after some internal issues started causing problems within his camp.
“It didn’t bring him (Mercito) down. He was very strong. He had the right people around him. He started finding out who truly was on his side and that’s when he got together with his family and close friends and decided to form a new team and move forward,” added Macasadia.
“After that fight, I learned a lot of things,” Gesta said in a subdued tone. “But right now what’s important is that my team needs to be a tight ship. Before, I used to just be cool with everyone and allow things to happen around me, but right now I’ve realized I really should know who’s in my team and who to trust.”
Gesta has gone back to the drawing board with the people he started with from the beginning and has been working hard with his father Anecito, who initially introduced him to the sport and taught him how to box as a teen.
“I’ve been training with my dad since I was a kid and I can’t do this without my family. They’re the ones that push me to work hard and if not for them, I won’t even be a boxer or where I am today. They want the best for me, because parents want the best for their kids,” Gesta said.
On the promotional standpoint, Gesta is back with Golden Boy Promotions through the help of matchmaker Robert Diaz and is fighting on April 11 against an opponent to be named in his adopted hometown of San Diego under Barron Entertainment with Don Chargin and Jorge Marron.
“I’ve been working hard in adding new techniques with my dad and improving my footwork and speed and I’m just happy and thankful to my team, Robert Diaz, Don Chargin, Jorge Marron, Golden Boy and everyone who still believes in me and supports me,” Gesta said in closing. “I’ll be back.”
Still just 26, the best is yet to come for Gesta, and if there is positive that could be be taken out of his loss to Vazquez, it’s that he didn’t really absorb any damage other than to his ego and professional fight record.
Without an extensive amateur boxing background (went straight to pro), on top of his counterpunching style, Gesta hasn’t absorbed as many hits compared to the average title-contending boxers his age. The fact that he has already experienced being in major fights and a world title fight and come out unscathed can only help him grow and improve.
With the right mindset and people around him, the sky is still the limit for this young, promising Filipino slugger. - Rappler.com
Follow Dennis on Twitter @dRealSource.