By Ian S Palmer
Jorge Linares of Venezuela will be defending his WBA Lightweight Title this Saturday, January 27th at the Forum in Inglewood, California when he faces Mercito Gesta of the Philippines. The 12-round bout can be seen live in North America on HBO while fans in the UK and Ireland can catch in on BoxNation. Linares last fought in September when he edged England’s Luke Campbell by a split decision. Gesta’s last outing came back in July when he stopped Martin Honorio in the eighth round.
Linares is a former WBC Champ and is defending the WBA Title for the third time. He won the belt and defended it against Anthony Crolla by unanimous decisions then stopped Darleys Perez in the ninth round before beating Campbell.
The 32-year-old Linares enters the ring at 43-3 with 27 Kos under his belt. He has plenty of experience, skill and speed and also a former featherweight and super featherweight world champion and has recently been living in Japan. He won the vacant WBC Lightweight Belt in December, 2014 by stopping Javier Prieto in the fourth round in Tokyo. However, the WBC stripped him of the title in February, 2016 after suffering a hand injury and being unable to defend the title. They then named him WBC Diamond Champion for what it’s worth.
Linares’ three losses have been against Juan Salgado in 2009, Antonio DeMarco in 2011 and Sergio Thompson in 2012. Those defeats revealed a questionable chin since all three men stopped him. Linares’ biggest wins have been over Campbell, Anthony Crolla (twice), Jesus Chavez, Oscar Larios, Nihito Arakawa and Rocky Juarez. The Venezuelan champ stands 5-feet-8-inches tall with a 69-inch reach and has fought 280 rounds since turning pro back in 2002. Linares has decent power as he carries a 59 per cent knockout ratio around with him.
The 30-year-old Gesta hails from the Philippines, but now fights out of San Diego and has fought in the U.S. Since 2007. He’s got a fine record of 31-1-2 along with 17 Kos. His power isn’t overwhelming as his current knockout ratio is 50 per cent and his chin is somewhat questionable as he’s been dropped in two of his last three bouts. His lone loss was a 12-round unanimous decision to Miguel Vazquez in an IBF World Title Fight in December of 2012. His two draws were 10 rounds with Carlos Molina in 2015 and a two-round technical affair against Rey Llagas in 2005.
Gesta is a southpaw and turned pro back in 2003 just after he turned 16 years old. He’s boxed 207 rounds since then and has wins over the likes of Honorio, Gilberto Gonzalez, Miguel Angel Mendoza, Ty Barnett, Ricardo Dominguez, Oscar Meza and Jorge Pimentel. Gesta stands 5-feet-7-inches tall with a 68-inch reach so gives up a minimal inch advantage to the champion in both of those departments. Gesta’s more of a slugger than a slick boxer though and might find the going a bit too hard with Linares due to the champions excellent boxing style.
Linares is a fine boxer, but is getting older has been hard pressed in several of his most recent fights. His reign as champion may well come to an end in 2018 or 2019, but he should be able to get past Gesta as long as his chin stands up and he lets his hands go every round. Still, it might be a relatively close contest.