Mercito Gesta lands a left cross against Jospeh Diaz Jr. during their hotly contested 10-round bout. Photo / Golden Boy Promotions
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Mercito Gesta wanted to start the new chapter of his career with a win.
Holding his newborn baby, Gesta heard the good news, winning by split-decision over Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz Saturday night at Walter Pyramid on the grounds of California State University, Long Beach.
One judge scored the bout 97-93 for Diaz, while the other two judges scored the bout 98-92 and 99-91 for Gesta, who improves to 34-3-3, 17 knockouts.
The fight between Diaz and Gesta, both of whom are promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, was a clash of southpaw veterans, and both let their hands go throughout the fight, providing action for the near sell-out crowd.
In what both fighters called a “must-win”, Mercito Gesta topped JoJo Diaz in a tight contest 👊#DiazJrGesta | @autozone pic.twitter.com/MkrtsOmWKJ
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) March 19, 2023
Diaz and Gesta had their moments during the first two rounds, but Gesta took more of the initiative to open the third round, throwing and landing combinations to the head of Diaz. Gesta was able to connect with straight left hands that split the guard of Diaz. The rally was short-lived as Diaz pinned Gesta against the ropes and continuously landed two-punch combinations or counter left crosses to the head of Gesta.
Diaz walked Gesta down, beginning in the fourth round. The tactic worked as Diaz was able to land more punches and put Gesta on the defensive.
During the middle rounds, Gesta threw lead left hands that connected to Diaz’s head. Undeterred, Diaz continued to walk Gesta down, attempting to mix his attack by throwing hooks to the body. The more Diaz would press, at times, Gesta would utilize lateral movement to make the former titleholder miss and counter.
By the eighth round, it was Gesta who was boxing from the center of the ring. Gesta outboxed Diaz during sequences, even moving out of Diaz’s range as Diaz attempted to land a third or fourth punch.
Both fighters let their hands go to start Round 10. Diaz and Gesta connected with punches to the head during exchanges. Diaz mostly outboxed Gesta during the second half of the round, but Gesta rallied during the last 10 seconds. After the bell sounded to end the round, both fighters embraced in the center of the ring.
“I have a lot of respect for ‘JoJo,” said Gesta after the fight. “I saw how motivated he was before and early on in the fight. He wanted to give me a difficult fight. He’s a good fighter.
“I needed to be smart. This is boxing. I had to be tactical for this fight. I listened to my corner. This win means a lot to me. I’m starting a new chapter in my life. I have a baby.”
Gesta is now unbeaten in his last three fights since his knockout loss to Juan Antonio Rodriguez in March 2019. He is a two-time lightweight title challenger.
Diaz (32-4-1, 15 KOs), who grew up in nearby South El Monte, was diplomatic in defeat, even announcing that Saturday night’s fight against Gesta was his last under a Golden Boy banner.
“It was a close fight,” said Diaz, a former IBF junior lightweight titleholder who entered Saturday’s bout as The Ring’s No. 9-rated lightweight. “I thought I dictated the pace. I thought I hurt him in the third or fourth round. I was landing good hooks to the body.
“I thought I did enough (to win). It is what it is. I just have to go back to the drawing board. I’m a (promotional) free agent. We’ll see what’s next for me out there.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]