Jorge Linares goes for his seventh straight lightweight title victory against Mercito Gesta

Jorge Linares is stirred by his past and thrilled by his future, but if he pays too much mind to either his Saturday night lightweight title defense against Mercito Gesta could be compromised.

At the Forum, the Venezuelan (43-3, 27 knockouts) seeks his seventh consecutive lightweight title victory when he meets San Clemente’s Gesta, who is trained by seven-time trainer of the year Freddie Roach, Linares’ former cornerman.

Linares isn’t as enamored with Roach as the boxing writers who’ve bestowed the past awards upon him for his distinguished work with Manny Pacquiao.

“I lost two fights with Freddie Roach, so … ,” Linares said this week.


At a Thursday news conference near LAX, Linares added, “I don’t blame him, I blame myself,” but there was clearly a disconnect between the two during their time together, including a 2011 lightweight title loss to Antonio DeMarco at Staples Center and a 2012 upset defeat in Cancun to Sergio Thompson.

Roach said he believes that he was ultimately fired by Linares after he ordered a woman connected to Linares out of the fighter’s locker room at Staples Center just before the DeMarco bout, angering Linares.

Linares explains that he agreed to train for DeMarco during a Pacquiao camp in the Philippines, returning home to Hollywood’s Wild Card Boxing Club just before the bout and suffering a cut in training that opened in the fight, leading to an 11th-round technical knockout loss.

A cut eyelid in his next fight caused defeat in the second round.


“He was really busy,” Linares said of Roach. “Now, I’m with [trainer] Ismael Salas and I’ve won 12 straight fights. I’m on a great run with him, the best moment of my career. And I don’t want to live in the past.”

The always blunt Roach was touted at the news conference as being 8-0 in fights when he’s matched against his former boxers, but he couldn’t confirm the number and couldn’t identify the former boxers he’s beaten.

Roach clearly would relish being 1-0 against Linares.

“Maybe it’s a good thing he has a new trainer, but ask him why … when I threw his girlfriend out of the dressing room, he got pissed at me and that might be a big reason he lost the fight,” Roach said. “I asked him, ‘Why do you have to babysit this girl? You’ve got this big fight. Why the distraction?’ He was very mad. …


“Remember the history … when he first came to America, he and Manny Pacquiao were about dead even. Two years later, Pacquiao knocked him out [in sparring].”

Linares, the World Boxing Assn. lightweight champion, would like to think he has risen about that and his winning streak, including a September split-decision victory at the Forum over England’s Luke Campbell, netted him a late-2017 multi-fight contract extension with Golden Boy Promotions, according to company president Eric Gomez.

Saturday’s fight will be watched closely by World Boxing Council lightweight champion Mikey Garcia and super-featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko and their handlers.

A matchup against either, in the spring or summer, could be Linares’ richest purse yet.


“Those fights keep coming up, but I’m not the one bringing them up. I know people want to see that,” Linares said. “I welcome those fights in the not too distant future, but I’m not concentrating on that now. To me, the most important thing is Mercito Gesta on Saturday night.”

But Gesta (31-1-2, 17 KOs) knows there’s a difference between words and human nature.

“That’s actually one of my main thoughts why I think I can win,” Gesta said. “He’s looking over me. Let him do that. I’ve trained hard. I’ll be quiet. I’ll have the advantage if he doesn’t take me serious. I am prepared.”

Gesta came to the U.S. from the Philippines in 2005 and drew comparisons to Pacquiao while getting the better of Linares in a 2011 sparring session. But he lost a lightweight world-title shot to evasive Miguel Vazquez in 2012. He has won his last three bouts to reach Linares again.


“After all that early hype on me and then losing that title shot, I feel all the pressure came off me,” Gesta said.


Main event: Lucas Matthysse (38-4, 35 KOs) vs. Tewa Kiram (37-0, 27 KOs), for vacant secondary WBA welterweight title

Where: Forum, card begins at 3 p.m. Saturday


Television: HBO, broadcast begins at 7:30 p.m. Pacific

Tickets: $10, $25, $50, $100

Co-main event: Jorge Linares (43-3, 27 KOs) vs. Mercito Gesta (31-1-2, 17 KOs), for Linares’ WBA lightweight belt


Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire