Tito Mercado stops Jeremia Nakathila in two rounds
ONTARIO, Calif. – Ernesto ‘Tito’ Mercado passed another test on his path towards becoming a legit contender at 140 pounds.
Mercado dropped Jeremia Nakathila of Namibia once en route to a knockout win in the second round Saturday night at the LumColor ‘Phoenix’ Center in Ontario, California. Mercado, who resides in nearby Pomona, improved to 13-0, 12 knockouts.
With the win, Mercado won a regional title belt and a likely top 15 ranking by the WBC.
From the opening bell, Mercado worked behind a consistent jab. On three occasions, Mercado connected with right crosses, behind a jab, to the head, which Nakathila took well. To his credit, Nakathila stood his ground, looking to counter with left hooks to the head.
About 30 seconds into the second round, Mercado scored a knockdown with a right-left combination to the head. Nakathila beat the count, but was overwhelmed by Mercado, who attempted to finish matters. Mercado then pinned Nakathila in a corner, where he landed a barrage of punches before referee Eddie Hernandez stepped in and stopped the fight at 1:00.
“I stayed composed and was able to move him around and not allow him to set up his right hand, something he likes to throw a lot of,” Mercado told The Ring after the fight. “That’s what we worked on in camp. That’s something he likes to do. We tried to make him uncomfortable, making him move and utilize my jab and see what came from there.
“I feel it’s my talent and my physical abilities that (these fighters) will have to deal with. I feel I have the complete package for these fighters to face in these championship fights.”
Saturday’s win over Nakathila culminated a strong 2023 for Mercado, fighting and winning five times this year and making a case for Prospect of the Year.
The 22-year-old previously fought on August 26, which also took place at Saturday’s venue, dropping Carlos Manuel Portillo of Paraguay twice en route to a first round knockout victory. Mercado fought on July 15, defeating South Africa’s Xolisani Ndongeni, who is best known for his decision defeat to Devin Haney in January 2019.
Mercado also has victories over former world junior welterweight title challenger Henry ‘Hank’ Lundy, former fringe featherweight contender Jayson Velez, and Jose Angulo, who represented Ecuador at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Nakathila falls to 23-3, 19 KOs. The 33-year-old has had mixed results in recent fights, losing by decision to Shakur Stevenson in June 2021 and stopping former WBC world junior lightweight titleholder Miguel Berchelt on March 26 of last year.
In his previous fight on May 20, Nakathila was stopped in the second round by unbeaten lightweight contender Raymond Muratalla.
After the Mercado-Nakathila fight, lightweights Victor Betancourt, Jr. of Mexicali, Mexico and Jose Zaragoza fought to a majority decision draw. One judge scored the bout 77-75 for Zaragoza while the other two judges scored the bout 76-76.
Betancourt (30-5-1, 17 KOs), who entered the fight having won his previous three fights since losing to unbeaten Wilfredo Flores on May 13 of last year, was the more-effective fighter during the first half of the fight.
The smaller Zaragoza rallied during the second half of the fight, effectively connecting with right uppercuts and combinations to the head of Betancourt. Zaragoza did well throwing and landing left hooks to the head.
Zaragoza, who is originally from Jalisco, Mexico and now resides in Sedalia, Missouri, goes to 9-9-2, 3 KOs. The 35-year-old snapped a four-bout losing streak.
Featherweight Luis Rubalcava of Westminster, California improved to 6-0, 3 KOs, stopping Alabama’s Rico Tartt at 1:18 of the third round. Tartt was making his pro debut.
In the opening bout of the Fight City Promotions card, cruiserweights Jonathan Pliego (0-1-1) of Baldwin Park, California and Gabriel Rodriguez fought to a draw. All three judges scored the bout 38-38.
The fight was a rematch from their August 26 fight, which Rodriguez (1-2-1), who resides in San Elizario, Texas, won by majority decision.
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]