Diego Magdaleno Maintains After Mercito Gesta Shows Flashes

The junior lightweight division is rightly derided as one of the weakest in boxing. The prominence of Japanese fighters like Takashi Uchiyama and Takahiro Ao at the weight hasn’t helped stateside marketability either.

But something interesting is happening at 130 lbs. A quick glance at the latest Ring ratings show three young, unbeaten Americans in the top 10 (four if you count Puerto Rico’s Luis Cruz). Throw in Cuban featherweight phenom YURIORKIS GAMBOA (who is moving up) and you’ve got finally got something to spark interest in a long-dormant division.

Las Vegas-based southpaw Diego Magdaleno knows his role; out of the four prospects, he is the consummate boxer. While he lacks the power of Cruz or the athleticism of Broner, Magdaleno shows perhaps the most savvy and craft. All his gifts were on display during a ten-round domination of veteran Emmanuel Lucero in Las Vegas on Top Rank Live.

Magdaleno’s activity, head movement and command of the fundamentals should pose a challenge for any junior lightweight when he finally steps up to the contending level. But his second straight unanimous decision win after an unlikely string of four knockouts is a better indication of his true style.

Magdaleno’s approach is focused and busy. He never stops his awkward bobbing and follows almost every punch with the appropriate hook. His speed was too much for Lucero, who barely posed a threat. As Alex noted, the Mexican has been turned into an opponent and not one known for offering much resistance at that.

While Magdaleno’s lack of power may hold him back at the top level, his straight left was strong enough to hurt Lucero several times. The night’s best sent Lucero into the ropes just before the bell in the 7th to score a knockdown.

It was a solid performance but until Diego steps up to take on better competition it’s hard to know what to make of him. We’d love to see Magdaleno get in the ring with one of the other top-rated fighters at 130; Eloy Perez could make an appealing opponent down the road if both prove themselves against better competition. The stakes would hopefully be high enough to compel both men to trade leather for 12 rounds.

Fox Deportes’ televised opener featured unbeaten Filipino lightweight contender Mercito Gesta out-boxing the game Ricardo Dominguez to earn a comfortable ten-round decision. Gesta improved his record to 24-0-1 and showed off lightning quickness, beating Dominguez to the punch all night before escaping unscathed.

Despite giving up several inches in height, Gesta was able to dominate from the outside. He doesn’t have the type of one-punch power displayed by countrymen Nonito Donaire and Manny Pacquiao but Gesta is an exciting fighter with a well-rounded offensive arsenal.

Early on Gesta began throwing the uppercut from the outside to catch the ducking Dominguez, a risky move even if you’re preternaturally fast. Dominguez was mostly unable to make him pay, since every time he tried to dive in and time Gesta he ate a stiff jab in response. A straight left caught Dominguez unaware in the 3rd, knocking him off-balance and scoring a knockdown for the Filipino.

The game Dominguez came back to hold Gesta at bay in the 4th and to his credit he stood and traded throughout the fight despite being hit far more than he landed. Gesta takes his foot off the gas at times, though whether it’s due to conditioning or temprament is unclear. After hurting Dominguez he allowed his opponent most of the next round to rest, a crucial mistake.

Dominguez came out more aggressive in the 5th, but Gesta stayed poised and relaxed, countering when possible and ducking most of the power shots. The Filipino would be well-served by going downstairs more often, where his speed should allow him to land several body shots before worrying about a counter.

The 6th was similarly quiet as Gesta was content to pick his spots and pot-shot while Dominguez tried to come in and brawl. The 7th followed much the same script.

Gesta came out with more aggression in the 8th, landing some vicious combinations and uppercuts while staying mostly in the pocket. Gesta has plenty of courage when it suits him and his risk-taking style should have any matchmaker licking their lips. He hurt Dominguez in the 8th and had him backing up for most of the round. Dominguez tried to rally in the last two rounds but it was too little, too late.

Gesta has exceptional handspeed and punches with precision, but he lacks show-stopping power and has a small frame for a lightweight. His flashiness and counter-punching ability could make for great TV fights if pared with come-forward types like John Molina. He currently doesn’t boast the marquee wins needed to justify a title shot, though “deserve” means little in the alphabet world. Whether he would be up for such a challenge remains a mystery.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.