The similarities between Manny Pacquiao and Mercito Gesta, at least on the surface, are striking. Both men are left-handed Filipinos who began boxing at an early age. Each signed a promotional contract with Top Rank with the intention of becoming the best in the world.
But while Pacquiao has become one of the elite boxers of this or any generation, Gesta's career is just starting to get on track 8½ years after it began.
Gesta, 24, will put his unbeaten record on the line Saturday in a 10-round pay-per-view lightweight bout when he meets Oscar Cuero at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Gesta (24-0-1, 12 KOs) has received plenty of comparisons to Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, another Filipino, both of whom are in the Yahoo! Sports Top 10.
Gesta, though, doesn't want to be the next Pacquiao or the next Donaire. He wants to be the first Gesta.
"People like to compare me to Manny and Nonito, and that creates a little bit of pressure on me," Gesta said. "I try to block all of that out and focus on what I need to do to get better. It's good to be compared to guys like that, because they're the best out there, but we're totally different."
Gesta only has 12 stoppages in his 24 fights, but much of that seeming lack of power is explainable by the fact that he began to fight professionally just a week after his 16th birthday. He was fighting men much more physically mature and only registered three knockouts in his first 12 fights. Since, he's gone 13-0 with nine knockouts and is starting to become a much more dangerous puncher.
Much of that is attributable to his fast hands. Combined with punching accuracy, those fast hands are providing more and more power.
It's all beginning to come together for Gesta, who has yet to have the defining fight that would mark him as a future star. He's anxious, he said, to shed the shackles that have been placed upon him by promoter Bob Arum and Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler and increase the competition level.
"We've been calling out all the best [lightweights] in the world," Gesta manager/trainer Vince Parra said. "So far, we haven't had any luck. We offered to replace [Yuriorkis] Gamboa, (who pulled out of the main event against Brandon Rios in a contract dispute). This fight with Cuero is a good introductory fight on HBO, but it's not the top opponent we wanted. We're open to fighting any of the big guys out there, no matter who it is."