Ernesto Mercado is not like most fighters.
Fighters, even before turning pro, look to sign with a major promoter.
Not Mercado. As of now, Mercado is enjoying being a free agent, fighting as often as he can, and doing so in front of family and friends. Not only is he a prized prospect, Mercado is also mentoring teenagers as well.
Mercado will face Alfredo Rodolfo Blanco of Argentina Thursday night inside The Hangar at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California. The fight will headline a Roy Englebrecht Promotions card that will stream live on Fite.tv (10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT).
At Wednesday’s weigh-in, both Mercado and Blanco weighed in at 142 pounds.
In his last bout on May 12, Mercado (6-0, 6 knockouts), who resides in Pomona, California, knocked out Jose Zaragoza in the second round. The win over Zaragoza took place four weeks after Mercado knocked out Daniel Evangelista, Jr., which also took place in Costa Mesa, in the opening round
The 20-year-old has been very active this year. The fight against Blanco will mark his fourth of 2022.
Mercado has created a buzz in Southern California thus far. The amateur standout, who is trained by father Ernesto, Sr., has enjoyed fighting in and around the Los Angeles area. That has been one of the perks in having not signed yet with a major promoter, despite rumors Mercado has received lucrative offers.
“I think I’ve been moved along well,” Mercado told BoxingScene earlier this week. “The problem is finding better opposition to challenge me.
“I’m enjoying my free agent status. I have that old-school mentality of wanting to fight every month. It’s fun and I get to dictate what I want. Fighting on these small cards to build more of my fanbase has been great. I’ve gotten to fight in front of family and friends, especially as a pro.”
Mercado has fought as both a lightweight and at 140 pounds thus far in his career. Mercado understands he is not going to face the best fighters at that weight in the near future, but he is eager to make his mark in the sport.
He is confident in his abilities that he can defeat any fighter in his weight class.
“I definitely watch a lot of fights on weekends,” said Mercado, who made his pro debut on July 31 of last year. “I’ve been mostly fighting between 135 and 140 pounds. I’m going to campaign at 135 pounds.
There’s a lot of talented guys at that weight. I think that there’s something missing with them. I just think I can defeat anyone. I know that I can develop to be that fighter that can beat anyone in the division.”
Mercado is busy outside of the ring as well. He assists teenagers in Pomona who run into trouble in school or have been contemplating joining a gang.
Understanding he cannot save every young teenager, Mercado does his best to mentor these teenagers, even detailing when he was their age and the temptation of joining a gang. Mercado gets a great deal of satisfaction knowing teenagers can improve their lives, whether it is graduating high school due to the sport being a hobby or outlet for them.
“I’m from the streets and I talk to these kids,” said Mercado. “I bring these kids to the gym to talk to them. I talk a lot about boxing with them because I’m from the community and it matters to me. I like creating relationships with these kids. I like mentoring when they come to talk to me.
“There are situations going on and I want to put these kids on the right path. I tell them of my situations I’ve been through and some of the mistakes I made as a kid. There’s a handful of kids who are stubborn, but eventually they learn a lesson. They go on their own path and move forward. That makes me feel good.”
Mercado is eager to make a statement Thursday night at the expense of Blanca (22-10, 11 KOs), who has split his last six bouts.
“I go into each fight with a motive. I’m putting the 135-pound division on notice. Of course I want to go in for another knockout and I guarantee a knockout. I also want to guarantee entertainment. I want to entertain the fans.
“As far as the future goes, I want to continue as a free agent until I sign with a major promoter. My dream is to headline a card at the MGM Grand. I feel I’m on the right track.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for BoxingScene since September 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing