Golden Boy Fight Night Enjoys Successful Debut In The Desert Thursday



Golden Boy Fight Night Enjoys Successful Debut In The Desert Thursday

Golden Boy Boxing and DAZN resurrected its club fight series in a hot new location for 2022 with its first card Thursday. At the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino in Indio, aspiring young fighters and veterans hoping to give their careers new life will get their chance to impress promoters and the fans.

Based on the sell-out crowd in Indio, the new series is picking up where Golden Boy’s popular club fights at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles left off.

What exactly is a ‘club fight’? In theory, club fights feature boxers who are still developing their craft in four, six, and eight-round fights. Their opponents are often veterans past the prime of their careers who are still hopeful for a chance at the championship level, along with journeymen who know their job is to test the youngsters while earning a paycheck. Local fans can sit up close and cheer on their favorites.

Gesta battles Diaz Jr. to upset decision victory

Veteran Mercito Gesta showed no mercy in defeating Joel Diaz Jr. in the first Golden Boy Fight Night 2022 main event. Photo: Golden Boy Boxing

Veteran Mercito Gesta showed no mercy in defeating Joel Diaz Jr. in the first Golden Boy Fight Night 2022 main event. Photo: Lizette de Los Santos / Golden Boy Boxing

In the main event, Joel Diaz Jr. of Palmdale (26-3, 22 KOs) and veteran challenger Mercito Gesta of San Diego (33-3-3, 17 KOs) went ten hard rounds to kick off the series in their 10 round super lightweight bout. Gesta lived up to his moniker “No Mercy,” scoring an upset victory and looking rejuvenated after time away from the ring. Scorecards were 96-92 X 2 and 95-93 for Gesta.

Gesta came out aggressively from the opening bell, drawing blood on Diaz Jr. in the first round, then dropping Diaz Jr. with a straight left-hand counter shot, and repeated the same countershot and knockdown seconds later. In the corner, trainer Sam Contreras asked Diaz Jr. “Are you all right? Tell me, are you all right? I’ll give you one more round.” Gesta outlanded Diaz Jr. 29 punches to just six punches for Diaz Jr.

Diaz Jr. dug down and traded with Gesta, fighting his way back to make it to the final bell, giving fans a thrilling action fight. He couldn’t overcome Gesta’s fast start. Gesta remained ahead but couldn’t shut Diaz Jr. down despite a valiant effort. Even as the action understandably waned, Gesta still had enough power to make Diaz Jr. feel it. Gesta turned up the heat repeatedly to the end, but the battle went to the cards.

Mercito Gesta admitted it was an emotional victory for him over Joel Diaz Jr. Photo: LIzette De Los Santos / Golden Boy Boxing

“Man, I was so emotional. I haven’t fought for a while,” said Gesta, whose last victory was July 2017. “There’s been some ups and downs. A lot of things happened. Fights got postponed. It was a mix of emotions for me. “Praise the Lord. God has always blessed me. I’m so happy with the victory I have right now.” Gesta credited his faith and “finding the connection” for the win. “It’s special this night.” Gesta had been out of the ring for two years. Now training at the Wild Card Gym with Marvin Somodio, Gesta said he felt refreshed and fighting with new urgency with his wife pregnant with their first child.

Gesta also praised his opponent for his effort. “I give it up to Joel Diaz. This kid can go far. I gave my all. He took it. He went toe to toe for ten rounds. I salute Joel Diaz.”

What’s ahead now for the 34-year-old Gesta? He said he would leave it to matchmaker Roberto Diaz and intends to continue fighting.

Gonzalez takes down Lopez in six rounds

Lightweight Jousce Gonzalez of Covina (11-0-1, 10 KOs) battered a tough Jairo Lopez of Apodaca, Mexico (27-14, 17 KOs) until referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the bout in the sixth round for a TKO win. Gonzalez controlled the fight from the start, but Lopez wasn’t going down quickly. Gonzalez worked the body hard to slow Lopez down, scoring two knockdowns in round two, one more each in rounds three and four. Lopez continued to fight back, but in the sixth, he sent Lopez staggering backward, and referee Hernandez stepped in,

“This was exactly what I expected. Jairo Lopez is a game fighter,” said Gonzalez. “He’s a tough, experienced fighter. I knew he could take some headshots, but his body shots were questionable. I wanted to take my time with him. He’s game, but he has a second wind. He’s still got a full tank of gas.”

Gonzalez said he gave his performance a six out of ten. “This is my first fight back, and I know I can do better. He is a very resilient fighter, but I knew I was landing my shots and hurting him. I knew he was taking some punishment, so I wasn't surprised when the referee waved the fight off. I am just happy to be back in the ring and want to aim to fight big names in the division.”

Flores and Salvatierra score KO wins

Super bantamweight Manual Flores of Coachella (12-0, 9 KOs) got a victory in his first pro fight in front of his hometown fans. He took down Victor Ruiz of Tijuana (23-13, 16 KOs) in the third round. “I am so happy to be here and fight in front of all my family and friends,” said Flores. “I want to thank all the local fans that came out to support. It gives me much more motivation to continue fighting.” Flores hopes he impressed Golden Boy president Roberto Diaz enough to get a contract offer. Based on the first bump Diaz gave Flores as he left the ring, we’ll wager he did.

Flyweight Jan Salvatierra of Cabo San Lucas (8-1, 4 KOs) ended his night with a second-round TKO after Ernie Marquez of Fort Morgan, Colorado (10-18-2, 3 KOs) couldn’t continue due to an injured ankle. You’re going to see losing records like this in a division where opponents are hard to come by.

Jorge Chavez now has a winning streak

Jorge Chavez of San Diego (2-0, 2 KOs) now has a winning streak and knockout streak going. He ended his super featherweight bout with a body shot and follow-up headshot on Jonathan Tejada of Mexico City (0-2). Golden Boy likes what they see from the 22-year-old.

“I loved being able to fight at Fantasy Springs. All my friends and family were able to come to see me in a more intimate venue,” said Chavez. “I am happy I got the victory, but every fight is a learning experience. Every fight, we will continue to grow, learn, and just get better and better.” Precisely the point of regional club fight cards wherever they take place.

Golden Boy had great success with its club fight cards before the pandemic. GB Fight Night hopes to bring the good times to the high desert, where a wealth of talent trains at the region’s high-quality gyms. Fans can get a good start on a long weekend and enjoy a fun night of fights for a reasonable price.

You might not be able to sit ringside this summer in Las Vegas or New York, but you can see the champions of tomorrow at your region’s club fights taking place weekly across the U.S. Make a promise to yourself and boxing now that you’ll attend a club card before Labor Day

Gayle Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist and the only woman journalist who is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). She is West Coast Bureau Chief based in San Diego, California.