Weekend Preview: Big night in Tokyo
MERCITO GESTA vs. IVAN VALLE
Rounds / weight class: 8 rounds / lightweights
Location: San Diego
The backdrop: Gesta, the San Diego-based Filipino prospect, made a big statement when he forced capable Oscar Meza to retire on his stool in four rounds in June. Now Gesta (19-0-1, 9 KOs) faces another test in Valle (28-9-3, 24 KOs). The veteran Mexican is 0-1-2 in his last three fights and has lost his biggest fights but, as his record indicates, he can punch. Thus, Gesta will have a significant edge in ability but it will be interesting to see what happens when the southpaw gets tagged. Gesta’s only setback was a second-round technical draw against Rey Llagas in 2005, the result of Gesta being cut by an accidental head butt. His handlers want to match him with Top 10 opponents after a few more fights.
Also fighting: Michael Franco vs. Adolfo Landeros, 8 rounds, featherweights
Rating the card: B-. Gesta is worth watching, although it’s far from certain whether he has what it takes to become a titleholder. And Valle’s power adds an intriguing element to the fight.
JESUS PABON vs. ANTONIO PITALUA
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / welterweights
The backdrop: The last time we saw Pitalua (50-4, 44 KOs) on a big stage he folded like a cheap lawn chair against the late Edwin Valero, who put the apparently terrified Colombian down three times and stopped him in the second round. Since then, against less-threatening opponents, the 40-year-old KO artist has won four in a row by knockout. Pabon (15-1, 9 KOs) returned from an 18-month hiatus in August to score an eighth-round knockout of veteran Ernesto Zepeda, who threw numerous low blows. The Puerto Rican southpaw was a good amateur and has the ability to be a title contender but has fought only twice in more than two years. The fact he’ll be in the ring for the second time in two-plus months is a sign that he plans to be more active. We’ll learn a lot about his chin in this fight.
Also fighting: Sullivan Barrera vs. Francisco Alvarez, 10 rounds, lightweights
Rating the card: B. Pitalua can end a fight in an instant, which is always fun to watch. Pabon should be handful because of his boxing ability but had better be careful.
TOSHIAKI NISHIOKA vs. RENDALL MUNROE
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / junior featherweights
The backdrop:. Nishioka (36-4-3, 23 KOs) defends his junior featherweight title against Munroe (21-1, 9 KOs) in a compelling main event but this card, which takes place Sunday in Japan but Saturday in the U.S., is stacked. Unbeaten strawweight Gonzalez (26-0, 22 KOs) faces Francisco Rojas (21-7-2, 12 KOs) in a rematch of their close fight last year. And talented Jorge Linares continues to rebuild after his stunning first-round KO loss to Juan Carlos Salgado (29-1, 18 KOs) last October. Nishioka, THE RING’s No. 1-rated 122-pounder, hasn’t faced a serious challenge for at least five years and has won 13 consecutive fights. The quick-handed southpaw, a title contender for more than 10 years, will have a significant edge in experience over Munroe. The left-handed Briton also is on a roll, having won his last 11 fights, but hasn’t faced anyone near Nishioka’s all-around ability. He is coming off an impressive ninth-round TKO of Victor Terrazas in a title eliminator in April. Gonzalez, a candidate for pound-for-pound consideration, has rolled over almost all his opponents but got a scare from Rojas before winning a majority decision. The versatile Nicaraguan had been scheduled to fight junior flyweight titleholder Juan Carlos Reveco, who pulled out because of kidney stones. Linares, who faces faded former titleholder Jesus Chavez, struggled to outpoint Francisco Lorenzo in his first fight after the Salgado fight. But he looked spectacular against Rocky Juarez in July, defeating the perennial contender by a one-sided decision. Chavez (44-7, 30 KOs) has lost his last three fights.
Also fighting: Roman Gonzalez vs. Francisco Rosas, 12 rounds, junior flyweights; Jorge Linares vs. Jesus Chavez, 10 rounds, lightweights
Rating the card: A. Not many cards feature fighters with the ability of Nishioka, Gonzalez and Linares.
Also Saturday Liam Walsh faces Maxwell Awuku for the vacant Commonwealth junior lightweight title in London.