Junior welterweight prospect Eresto “Tito” Mercado. (Twitter: @realtitomercado)
Junior welterweight prospect Ernesto Mercado is following through on wanting to face tough challenges in the ring.
Mercado (9-0, 9 knockouts) will face former world title challenger Henry “Hank” Lundy in a 10-round bout tonight at the Lum “Phoenix” Center in Ontario, California, not far from his hometown of Pomona.
The 21-year-old boxer-puncher will again face another opponent who has either been a contender or has fought on bigger platforms. In his last fight on February 4, which also took place at the Lum “Phoenix” Center, Mercado dropped Jose Angulo multiple times en route to a knockout win in round 7. Angulo had fought once on a ShoBox card in March 2020.
In his previous fight on October 22, Mercado stopped Jayson Velez after the sixth round. Velez was a former junior lightweight contender and featherweight title challenger who had fought under the Golden Boy Promotions banner.
Tonight, Mercado will face a fighter who has fought a who’s who of world titleholders, including Terence Crawford, contenders and unbeaten fighters. In his last bout on December 9, Lundy dropped prospect Shinard Bunch before losing a close unanimous decision.
Despite Lundy losing six of his last eight bouts, Mercado is not overlooking Lundy and believes fighting him will be beneficial for him in the long run.
“I think he has a lot of experience,” Mercado told The Ring earlier this week. “He’s going to give you a run for your money. He has a different style from what I’ve fought before. His fighting style is beneficial to me and my career.”
Mercado could face fighters who are journeymen or could pad his record. Under the tutelage of his father, Ernesto, Sr. and sparring against top fighters in Southern California, Mercado believes facing his recent string of opponents, including Lundy, allows him to improve and stay sharp in the ring.
“It adds pressure in a good way,” said Mercado, who has fought at handful of different venues in Southern California. “People are going to watch me more. Other fighters are going to pay attention to me. I think fighting these types of fighters gives me that drive to push me train harder. I’m more motivated.”
Saturday will mark his second fight of this year. Mercado fought five times in 2022.
Mercado holds himself more accountable after every fight, pinpointing what he could do to improve as a prizefighter, including his last two fights.
“I felt like I needed to be more patient in the Velez fight,” said Mercado. “I was sitting down on my punches, and I let myself down because I made the fight harder than it was. In the Angulo fight, I was more patient and attacked the body, breaking him down.
“Against Lundy, I’m going to have to be at my best. I’m hoping he respects my power, but I have to be patient and stay disciplined.”
Mercado was featured in a Ring Magazine story on under-the-radar prospects to keep on an eye on. A win over Lundy would solidify his standing as a legit prospect at 140 pounds. He hopes winning more fights would put him in a position to contend sooner than later.
“I want to fight the contenders in the division. I need those fights to get me to that goal. I hope to get into the top 3 or 5 in the division by the end of the year or next year.”
Mercado will be defending a regional title belt.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 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 at [email protected]