On Saturday, January 27, 2018, 32-year-old Venezuelan boxer Jorge Linares, who is considered one of the top fighters in the world, will defend his WBA Lightweight title against once-defeated Filipino contender, Mercito “No Mercy” Gesta (31-1-2, 17 KOs).
The bout will co-headline an HBO Boxing After Dark card from The “Fabulous” Forum in Inglewood, CA starting at 10:30 pm, EST/7:30 pm, PST.
Gesta, who is trained by legendary coach Freddie Roach, is no push over, but one can hardly blame Linares for eyeing marquee matchups with some of boxing’s biggest names in 2018.
“This year should be the most important. I have imagined it on many occasions,” said Linares. “Big opportunities are coming and there are rumors of big fights.”
Unfortunately for Linares, the biggest fights that can be made against top-class opponents won’t necessarily be easy to setup due to the political landscape of boxing.
But, Golden Boy Promotions–Linares’ promotional company–seems to be doing its part to land Linares the big fights he seeks, even though WBC Lightweight champion Mikey Garcia recently turned down a seemingly solid offer to face Linares (per ESPN).
According to Golden Boy Promotions’ president Eric Gomez, Garcia–who fights under the Premier Boxing Champions banner run by Al Haymon–opted to go another route in November when a 50-50 split was offered to him to face Linares.
“Mikey said it was a business decision,” said Gomez (per ESPN). “He said he’s got another offer so he’s going to take the other offer and we wish him well. The way I left it with Mike was, ‘Hey, let’s continue to communicate and if the fight can be made after the next fight and after Linares’ next fight then we’ll explore it.'”
It turned out that the other offer Garcia opted for was at 140 pounds against WBC titleholder, Sergey Lipinets. That bout is scheduled to take place on March 10 in San Antonio.
Assuming Linares and Garcia come out victorious in their respective bouts, one can assume that talks will resume to unify titles at 135 pounds. But, even if Linares can’t land the Garcia fight, there are other big-time fights that peak his interest, including one against pound-for-pound fighter, Vasiliy Lomachenko.
“If the opportunity comes, then I would definitely fight either Mikey Garcia or Vasiliy Lomachenko,” said Linares. “We just want to have a big fight in 2018. It’s up to my team to figure that out, but those are the fights I want if I am successful against Gesta.”
Although Linares has made no mention of PBC‘s Robert Easter Jr., the Toledo, Ohio native holds the IBF Lightweight title and called Linares out after his victory over Javier Fortuna this past Saturday night on Showtime Championship Boxing.
“I want to fight the champions and unify these belts. I’m ready for Mikey Garcia and Jorge Linares to sign the contract,” said Easter Jr.
One thing is clear–there are tons of matchups in and around the Lightweight division that have boxing fans salivating. Whether those fights can be made is another story entirely.
But, first things first. Linares knows he has to handle business Saturday night at The Forum against Gesta.
“The most important is thing right now is to win on January 27,” said Linares. “The truth is that I respect Gesta. He’s hungry and he’s worked hard to get the opportunity.”
Header photo by Esther Lin