Los Angeles (AFP) - Jorge Linares retained his World Boxing Association lightweight world title with a unanimous decision over Filipino fighter Mercito Gesta in a 12-round bout on Saturday.
The 32-year-old Linares, of Venezuela, made the third defence of his title and extended his win streak to 14 straight fights, with his victory at the Los Angeles Forum.
Linares improved to 44-3 with 27 KOs.
He landed the harder and cleaner punches throughout, winning almost every round on the judges' scorecards. Two judges scored it 118-110 and the other at 117-111.
"I didn't really feel his power, though I hurt my hand in the fourth or fifth round," said Linares. "There wasn't a knockout because he was well prepared."
Linares chipped away at Gesta's defense in the first five rounds before taking his attack up a notch in the middle rounds.
By the seventh he was landing some four- and five-punch combinations, showing off his superior hand speed and ring experience.
He suffered a cut around his right eye in the eighth round when Gesta hit him with a left hand and then used a shoulder jab in close to open up the wound.
Linares fought with blood flowing from the cut for the rest of the round but his corner was able to stop it from bothering him for the remainder of the fight.
Linares is hoping this victory puts him in line for a unification fight against Mikey Garcia or a battle with Ukrainian champion and 2017 fighter of the year Vasyl Lomachenko.
The 30-year-old Gesta dropped to a career record of 31-2-2. This was his second title fight following a 2012 loss to Miguel Vazquez.
Gesta played the showman early in the fight, smiling widely whenever Linares landed a hard punch to the head, but the grin turned to grimaces in later rounds as the punches piled up.
"I fought against a world champion," said Gesta. "He adjusted well to my style after the first couple of rounds."
In a welterweight fight on the same card, Lucas Matthysse broke through in the middle rounds against Thailand's Tewa Kiram, scoring an eighth round knockout victory.