Following a trio of victories over English opposition, it is Philippines’ Mercito Gesta who is now tasked with dethroning WBA Lightweight title holder Jorge Linares 43-3(27KO’s).
Linares’ 12-fight winning streak strides back to 2012, and his standing as an elite pound-for-pound fighter can be narrowly improved with a win over his latest challenger. And an inspiring performance on Saturday (27th January) will be a must following a contentious split decision win over Luke Campbell last time out.
Like many before him and since him, Mercito Gesta has been dealt the unenviable task of becoming the next Manny Pacquaio or Nonito Donaire. But unlike his foe this weekend, he has failed to reach the heights of world level following a dominant loss to Miguel Vazquez in 2012.
Gesta 31-1-2(17KO’s) was too green that night, and has since racked up a string of wins, as well as a draw with Carlos Molina in 2015. No wins stand out, but he did halt Martin Honorio in fashion last July.
The former Super Featherweight may find himself out of his depth size-wise, but in Linares he is facing another fighter that has been successful moving up to 135lbs.
Gesta has also remained a regular feature on many Golden Boy Promotions undercards, and it has not been to build this fight up for the last few years. Suggesting that GBP have kept their faith in Gesta to still have a future at the top-level.
When in range, Gesta is a dangerous and highly active fighter, but his boxing from range is not quite as polished as the champions.
However, Campbell’s success in September, may have been a hint that the 32-year old is no longer in the midst of the purple patch of his career. If that is the case, then while defeat may not be on the cards at the Forum, a far tougher than expected encounter could be.
The Inglewood crowd are very rarely left unsatisfied, and this event is not going to fall into the minority. Gesta’s aggression and work rate, pooled with Linares’ punch-picking and knack for going into deep waters, makes for an enjoyable night of world championship boxing.
The pick is for Gesta to come racing out of the blocks, picking away at the body of Linares, before the champion begins to settle in and stifle the output of the challenger. Linares slowly builds momentum, opening a gap between the two fighters in the ring, but not quite on the scorecards.
The fight will catch fire once again in the late stages, both tiring from their efforts in the opening two-thirds. Here Linares could either pull away, or Gesta could keep the pressure on and force the judges into a tough final call.
The tentative choice is for Linares to haul himself clear of a nervy wait, winning the final stages and firmly holding on to his WBA belt.
It has been a hard and often unfair road that Lucas Matthysse 38-4(35KO’s) has travelled, and once again one feels he draws the short straw with his latest attempt at a world title.
The Argentinian hard man faces a complete unknown in unbeaten Tewa Kiram 38-0(28KO’s). The 25-year old Welterweight is relatively fresh having cruised through the WBA rankings with 25 defences of the PABA Welterweight title.
All 38 of his previous contests have taken place in Thailand, and now he faces a man well-known to boxing fans across the world, for the vacant WBA ‘regular’ title – Keith Thurman is the divisions’ legitimate WBA ruler.
But having seemingly come to the end of the road in 2015, Matthysse bounced back from defeat to Viktor Postol with a dominant stoppage of Emmanuel Taylor in his new weight category. Matthysse must now follow that up if he is to engage in one last attack on boxing’s elite.
When at his best, Matthysse is near unstoppable, but he has been boxed in the past. And if other Thai boxers are anything to go by, then Kiram will possess a very high work rate, and excellent motor.
An upset could come close to surpassing what Kiram’s compatriot, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai did when ousting Roman Gonzalez last year.
Kiram is a big Welter, but not a mover, which will come as a relief to Matthysse. But should his bigger size come accompanied by a solid chin, then this could be the sort of fight that proves too much for the slightly smaller man.
But the pick is for experience to prove key, with Matthysse picking his shots before unleashing powerful left hooks to both the head and body.
It could be a nightmare for the favourite, but I tentatively favour the Argentinian to drop and stop the man from Thailand somewhere around the 8th session, ending a back-and-forth affair.