LONG BEACH — Mercito Gesta denied Joseph Diaz Jr. an opportunity to resurrect his career. An entertaining 10-round bout produced wild scorecards. Ultimately, it was Gesta who survived the battle of the confused judges and was awarded a split decision in their DAZN-streamed main event Saturday evening from the Walter Pyramid. Judge Pam Hayashida scored the fight 97-93 for JoJo Diaz. Her interesting score was outdueled by the duo of judges Alejandro Rochin and Pat Russell, who submitted winning scores of 99-91 and 98-92 for Gesta in what could only be described as a topsy-turvy performance.
Gesta worked off his jab and came forward for much of the first round. Both Gesta and Diaz connected with solid right hands near the end of the frame.
Diaz upped the ante in round two and landed a sweet right hook to the body with about 1:28 to go. With less than a minute remaining, Gesta connected with a counter left-right combination after Diaz landed a right hand.
In the third round, Diaz turned the tables as he bullied Gesta in a dominant performance. He hurt Gesta with a right hand to the body and pinned him to the ropes, where he punished him with stiff lefts and rights.
Diaz once again moved Gesta to the ropes, where he connected with chopping left hands in round five. Gesta went back to the basics after his opponent's rally and drilled the resilient Diaz with a big right hook late in the frame.
The sixth round lacked offensive action. Gesta, however, used the ring and his lateral movement to force Diaz to fight at his pace, and in turn, didn't allow him to plant his feet.
With about 1:30 remaining in the seventh round, Gesta connected with a four-punch combination. Diaz, though, continued to come forward and connected with body shots on the inside.
Both fighters had their moments in round eight. A straight left hand found a home for the 35-year-old Gesta, which Diaz took well. Diaz, however, took over in the final minute. He pinned Gesta against the ropes, but was unable to carry that momentum further.
Gesta once again used the ring in round nine as Diaz plodded forward. With roughly 52 seconds left in the frame, Diaz landed a right to the body and Gesta followed up with a two-punch combination upstairs.
Knowing the winner could potentially be a winner-take-all-round, Gesta and Diaz let their hands go for a dramatic finish in the battle of the southpaws. Gesta continued to outbox Diaz with jabs upstairs and combinations to the body as he maintained his distance. Diaz closed the distance in the final 30 seconds but his shots continued to come up short. Gesta landed a left hand in the final moments to seal the deal as the bell rung to end their 10-round affair.
Diaz fell to 32-4-1 (15 KOs) as he dropped his third bout in a row.
Gesta improved to 34-3-3 (17 KOs) as his world title hopes remain intact following the most significant win of his career.
Duarte Beats Martin In Semifinal
In the chief support contest, Oscar Duarte extended his knockout streak with an eighth-round knockdown of Alex Martin in their 135-pound battle.
A right hand by the Mexican contender badly hurt Chicago's Martin before falling to the canvas. Moments later, a charging Duarte dropped Martin again with a ferocious flurry, which forced referee Jerry Cantu to wave off the contest at 1:14.
To wrap up the undercard, highly-touted junior middleweight prospect Eric Tudor (8-0, 6 KOs) overcame a laceration above his right eye caused by a headbutt to defeat Damoni Cato-Cain (7-1-1, 6 KOs) in an eight-round unanimous decision. 130-pound prospect Jorge Chavez (5-0, 4 KOs) scored a 30-second knockout of Bryan Perez (12-17-1, 11 KOs). Dalis Kaleiopu (4-0, 3 KOs) outpointed Jonathan Perez (40-35, 32 KOs) over six rounds in a lightweight affair.