An undefeated Filipino fighter with an entertaining style is a commodity with great box-office potential in boxing today. Each opportunity to earn him TV exposure should be quickly seized, allowing his countrymen to compare him to other Filipino icons such as Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire.
That's the idea behind this week's edition of "Friday Night Fights" (ESPN2/ESPN3, 10 p.m. ET), when unbeaten southpaw Mercito Gesta -- a resident of San Diego by way of the Cebu province of the Philippines -- will clash with Ty Barnett of Washington, D.C., in a scheduled 10-round lightweight bout in the main event from the Texas Station Casino in Las Vegas.
Gesta (25-0-1, 13 KOs) is a polished and engaging fighter, who despite not possessing the explosiveness of his compatriot Pacquiao has nevertheless gained enough recognition to be mentioned as a possible opponent for top-level fighters in the 135-pound neighborhood. Gesta, 24, moved to San Diego in 2007 and has been trying to improve his level of opposition since then, with mixed results. Fringe contenders Genaro Trazancos and Cristian Favela appear on his résumé, and his recent performance against Ricardo Dominguez was received with limited enthusiasm from fans and critics alike. But in his most recent outing, Gesta dominated journeyman Oscar Cuero in April and appears poised to put himself into increasingly harder tests in 2012.
Barnett (20-2-1, 13 KOs) has compiled his wins mostly against fighters with strong records, even if there are virtually no recognizable names among them. He has been knocked out twice and, following his recent defeat at the hands of unbeaten Andrey Klimov in May 2011, chose to reboot against two very soft touches. But Barnett has a solid-enough record that Gesta, the favored fighter in this matchup, should nevertheless take this fight very seriously.
In the co-main event, another 10-rounder at 135 pounds, Mickey Bey and Rob Frankel will meet in a classic crossroads fight. At 29, Bey (18-0-1, 9 KOs) is a young veteran thanks to his extensive amateur background, which includes several national championships and multiple opportunities to represent the U.S. at international events. He has yet to notch a signature win, although that won't change even if he defeats Frankel (30-12-1, 6 KOs), a trial horse who most recently followed a victory against undefeated Raul Carrillo with a loss to Cleotis Pendarvis.
The swing bout will feature local unbeaten youngster Jesse Magdaleno in an eight-round bout against Brazil's Aldimar Silva-Santos in the junior featherweight division.