Next weekend lightweight standout Ernesto ‘Tito’ Mercado heads to Hawaiian Gardens, California to kick off his 2024 campaign against veteran Victoriano Antonio Santillan. Mercado answered his iPhone for an interview with this writer directly from training camp at the G2G Boxing Club in Pomona.
Mercado, (13-0, 12KO) has his sights set on a knockout to begin the year, with a title opportunity the ultimate goal. “I’m going to keep busy in 2024, looking for a knockout as a great way to start off the year.”
Fighting out of Pomona, California, the 22 year old won 23 national titles as an amateur and was set for an Olympic run prior to the pandemic of 2020. Mercado decided to turn professional in July 2021 and has since provided highlight reel knockouts against tough competition.
The event is a MarvNation promotion, which will be presented live on MarvNationTV.com on February 10, 2024. “I’m happy to be a part of this MarvNation event,” said Mercado.
Mercado is not directly signed to any promoter, which is by his own design.
“I’m able to keep busy, because I’m not tied down and I’m able to keep myself from becoming inactive. I’m in control. Some promoters wouldn’t put their prospects in against the fighters that I’ve beat.”
Mercado punches up some solid and valid points. In his eighth career fight, he faced 40 fight veteran Jayson Velez and scored a sixth round knockout. Two fights later he stepped in against former title challenger Hank Lundy, who lasted less than three minutes with Mercado before being stopped.
To date, only one fighter today can say he went the distance against Mercado, that being 30 bout veteran Xolisani Ndongeni. Ndongeni faced the undefeated Arnold Barboza last month in a losing effort.
In addition to fighting against and knocking out more experienced competition, in the lead up to next weekend’s fight Mercado has been throwing leather with sparring partners Juan Carlos Burgos and Jose Felix.
Further validating his promoter-free quest, the fast-fisted Mercado also kept himself in the prize ring in both the United States and abroad in 2023, registering five bouts in the year, with the Ndongeni fight taking place in Nicaragua on July 8, 2023.
Five fights a year is becoming a rarity in the sport of boxing, yet that’s exactly what Mercado can become in 2024: a rare self-made champion.
Rumble young man, rumble.
Images: Raymundo Dioses