Gesta is ready for opportunity!
Story & photos by Felipe Leon
The story is as old as the Marquess of Queensberry rules in boxing, young man from impoverished area of a third world nation, without any bright lights in his future, looks towards earning his riches in the sweet science.
When your homeland is the Philippines, the blueprint has been set in stone by one Manny Pacquiao, the most popular worldwide fighter at the moment. Although 22-year-old undefeated lightweight Mercito "No Mercy" Gesta (17-0-1, 7 KOs) admires Pacquiao and all he has done, Gesta knows he has his own trail to blaze.
"Pacquiao has a lot of support already. I need to make my own name too," Gesta says after a work out session. "Pacquiao is Pacquiao and I am me. I am the one leading my life. I am the one leading my career; I need to do my thing."
Now, Gesta of San Diego, CA, by way of Cebu, PI, is ready to earn his first piece of hardware this Friday, June 4th, when he faces the hard hitting Oscar "Estudiante" Meza (19-3, 17 KOs) for the WBO NABO Youth lightweight title in the scheduled twelve round main event of a stacked ten fight card put on by Fight Night Productions, TKO Boxing Promotions and Tuto Zabalas Jr's All Star Boxing. The Gesta-Meza championship fight will be televised by Telemundo.
Like many fighters from underdeveloped countries such as the Philippines and Mexico, Gesta began his career early as he turned pro at the age of sixteen as a jr. flyweight with no amateur experience but one year earlier, he earned his first knockout despite not showing up on his official record.
"I went to night school and I got in a fight," Gesta says with a smile as he reminisces of his start in boxing. "In my neighborhood back home there is a lot of gangs. I wasn't looking for trouble and they picked on me because they knew I boxed. I beat him up and the principal thought that I was the bad guy because the guy was so beat up."
The southpaw Gesta was taken to a gym by his truck driving father who in his youth also boxed and practiced Muay Thai.
"I didn't finish high school, just the first year. When my dad found out he asked me what I was going to do and I said 'I don't know', so he took me to the boxing gym. That was the start," the affable Gesta explains. "When I kept winning, I started to take it seriously and I knew I wanted to continue."
Gesta kept on winning and quickly assembled a 10-0-1 with 3 knockouts KOs ledger. Soon he caught the eye of important people including Michael Konz, the infamous advisor to one Manny Pacquiao. At nineteen, Gesta was offered the opportunity to join the Filipino wave of fighters that had arrived in the United States with the success of the "Pacman."
"When my parents found out I wanted to come to America to fight, they supported me. I was offered a fight on the undercard of one of the Pacquiao vs. Morales fights, I think it was in November 2006," Gesta says. "Michael Konz talked to my manager in the Philippines and he talked to Bob Arum. Wackee Salud, a well known boxing manager in the Philippines, talked to Konz about me. I ended up not fighting on the fight card because I was the swing bout so there was no more time so I didn't even fight."
Once in The States, Gesta settled in the countryside of Georgia where his then manager lived. The rural South was as far away from Philippines as the planet Mars with its isolated living and lack of Filipinos. After fighting in Chicago and training in Las Vegas, Gesta reunited with his Filipino trainer, Carl Penalosa, brother of Gerry and Dodie Boy, in Los Angeles, CA.
When I got to L.A., there was more Filipinos and it helped me not to miss back home that much. Georgia is like countryside and there wasn't a lot of people, no Filipinos," Gesta says.
After less than six months, Coach Carl and Gesta made their not to the boxing hub of Los Angeles but to San Diego. The two Pinoys found the support and tranquility that they sought to continue Gesta's rise within the ranks.
"My coach moved down here to San Diego. In L.A., it was too crowded," Gesta states regarding the Pacquiao compound in Los Angeles where most if not all Filipinos fighters in the U.S. converge to. "There is still a lot of support here (San Diego)".
Since coming stateside, Gesta has continued his unbeaten ways with a seven wins against four knockouts plus he is now campaigning at a lightweight. His victories in The States include the 2008 Tijuana “Prospect of the Year” Alain "Konan" Hernandez and tough journeyman Cristian Favela, who he has defeated twice, the last time in his last bout in February.
"I feel that I have done well in my fights and what I have shown in the fights," Gesta says. "With my team helping me, Vince and Coach Bumpy, I have support and especially for this upcoming fight so I feel good."
Vince Parra, Gesta's co-manager and current trainer, has taken over the corner of the young Filipino since Carl Penalosa had to return to the Philippines to deal with visa issues.
”Mercito is trained by Carl Penalosa, he's just not here,” explained Para. “Carl was with him in early April. They have a certain style and it has worked great, he is undefeated. When Carl left back to the Philippines, he asked me to look after him. Me with my experience and with my father's experience who is a veteran trainer and has worked with world champions, we have a collective.”
"We don't do anything with his style, we just tell him to do more or less of what he already does very well,” said Para. “If the machine is not broken, you don't fix. Like I told Carl when he was here for his last fight, we wouldn't change anything, we just tell him what tools to take out of the shed and make sure he is training hard."
"It was about two years ago when my father and myself were training Cruz Carbajal and we were getting him ready for an IBF eliminator against a left hander," Parra says about the first time he met the fighter nicknamed "No Mercy" because of his relentless attack. "We had met Carl and he had told us that he had a Filipino left handed featherweight that was really good. Cruz sparred with Mercito for a couple of days. We were all pretty shocked because we didn't expect him to be that good. What I do remember is Cruz saying that this kid was going to be really good. I think that was when Mercito had just arrived in San Diego."
Parra crossed paths again some time later with Gesta and as luck would have it, he became part of Team Gesta.
"I was matchmaking a couple of shows for Rogue Boxing and we used Mercito on loan from Don Chargin to headline a couple of shows here in San Diego,” recalled Para. “During that time myself, Coach Carl and the promoter had moved Mercito around for sparring purposes. I guess I just stuck with him. There was some contract problems and he really didn't have many people around him in his management and I kind of stepped in with him with his co-manager Joel Combs. Boxing is a sticky business. I just ended up with him because he would have me. I think he is very talented and special so if I can be a part of something like that, I am willing to invest my time and energy."
Along with Jun Lunas, who is the cut man for Gesta since the fighter arrived in San Diego, Parra seeks out the advice of his father, "Bumpy" Parra, who in his time as a bantamweight collected a 17-4-5, 3 KOs record in the sixties and seventies but who has made his name by working the corners of former WBO bantamweight champion Cruz Carbajal, Paul Vaden, Larry Dixon, "Mantequillas" Napoles among others.
"I see a lot of moxie and technique. I was surprised he was this talented," "Bumpy" Parra says. "You can see he was in a gym at an early age. I think he has the smarts to get to the top."
The first step to the top comes this Friday for Gesta when he faces Meza, a hard hitting Mexican from Culiacan, MX, who has fought the much stiffer opposition and owns a win over the highly touted Jorge "Maromerito" Paez Jr.
"I have seen a film of him. A friend in LA, gave us a tape of this guy (Meza) and we have studied his movement and style," Gesta says of Meza. "I can handle his style but I don't know about his power. You will know that power until you are in the ring. Vince has always told me that I can handle the style of the guy but we need to watch out for the power since we won't know (his power) until we are in there with him."
"He has to use his jab,” commented Para. “He has one of the best jabs I have seen. Its fast, it’s hard, he's a natural right hander. He was taught lefty as most kids in the Philippines.”
"His last few fights here have been against lesser opposition so he has been able to blast them out with the exception of Favela. When you get to blast them out, you forget about the little things like the jab to set up bigger things. Like I said, he has been taught well, from his father to Coach Carl, we all speak the same language, the language of boxing,” said Para.
With the fight being broadcast nationally in the United States and internationally into Latin America by Telemundo, Gesta has the opportunity to make a big splash which could lead to bigger opportunities, which the fighter states that he is ready for.
"If I win this fight, I expect bigger and better fights,” said Gesta. “With the help of my promoters, Don Chargin and Jorge Marron and my team, I want bigger names in my weight division and I expect to keep on winning. Anybody in my weight division, Michael Katsidis, Humberto Soto, anybody!"
The Gesta vs. Meza contest is the headline bout of the “Boxeo TELEMUNDO” telecast this Friday, June 4 from the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa, FL. Local hero Edner “Cherry Bomb” Cherry (27-6-2, 15 KOs) faces Ira Terry (24-3, 14 KOs) in a bout scheduled for ten rounds in the lightweight division. A total of ten bouts are scheduled with the first bell at 7p. The event is being promoted by Tuto Zabala, Jr. of All Star Boxing “The New Generation,” Aaron Jacobs of Fight Night Productions, and Chester Koerner of TKO Boxing Productions. The Gesta-Meza bout will be televised live at 11:35p by Telemundo. Tickets are on sale at the A La Carte Event Pavillion, 4050 Dana Shores Dr., Tampa, FL or by calling (404) 787-7593.
For more coverage on the San Diego/Tijuana scene, please check out SDFights.com