Summer 2024

Undefeated boxer Tito Mercado utilizing platform to share Gospel: 'God can change anybody'

Ernesto “Tito” Mercado knew at the age of 4 that he wanted to be a professional boxer. He was introduced to the sport by his father, Ernesto Mercado Sr., who was also a boxer and stayed involved in boxing by becoming a trainer.

Ernesto Sr. spent years “doing drugs and running the streets,” but made it his mission to prevent others from following a similar path, and chose to do so through boxing. The sport is a family business of sorts for the Mercados; Tito’s two younger brothers are boxers as well.

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As a kid, Tito was the one waking up Ernesto at 5 a.m. so they could start training. The early mornings paid off in the form of a 278-11 amateur record.

“To be able to stay on track and to have parents that supported me the way that they do, I’m forever grateful,” Tito said in a recent interview with Sports Spectrum.

As Tito was becoming one of the most highly-regarded amateur boxers in the world, he was also developing a strong relationship with God and investing in kids from his hometown of Pomona, California, through the Gangs to Grace Foundation. Though he grew up Catholic, Tito attributes the beginning of his faith journey to Ernesto Sr., who began sharing the Gospel with his children and other kids after having it shared with him. That led to the Mercados creating Gangs to Grace in 2012.

Originally housed in a church, the organization is a boxing club that provides faith-based mentorship to kids. Tito said there are Bible studies twice a week, and the goal is to continue expanding the foundation’s reach.

“It’s just great to see kids not just enjoy the Bible but to also get into it and share their thoughts,” Tito said. “Honestly, it’s such a beautiful thing just to be able to know that you’re spreading the Word.”

The COVID-19 pandemic threw a major wrench in Tito’s dream of competing in the Olympics before turning professional. Picked as an alternate for the U.S. team for the Tokyo Games, Tito was also eligible to represent Nicaragua and explored that possibility. He decided to turn pro when it did not work out.

Tito knocked out Chris Johnson in his professional debut on July 31, 2021, and improved to 12-0 with a knockout of Carlos Manuel Portillo on Saturday. He gave glory to God in an Instagram post celebrating the win, declaring, “God is great.”


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A post shared by Ernesto Mercado (@realtitomercado)

Prayer is a key part of Tito’s pre-fight routine, and he believes his faith is a major reason why he’s experienced so much success in the ring.

“I feel like you can’t really do one without the other. … The faith that I have, not only does it guide me in life, but I feel like it guides me in the ring as well,” he said. “Before every fight, I always pray, and I feel like it gives me the strength and it gives me the wisdom to do the right things.”

There are times when Tito finds himself applying Bible verses he’s read to his boxing career. One of the things he enjoys about following the Lord is having the opportunity to constantly gain more spiritual wisdom.

“That’s the great thing about the Bible — it can always teach you new things, whether it’s about yourself or you’re able to apply things differently to life,” Tito said.

Tito does not believe he would be where he is today without his dad’s personal struggles and the relationship he has with God. The gratitude Tito has for the journey God’s led him on is one of the inspirations for him wanting to share the Gospel with the next generation.

“I’m always constantly thanking God for everything that He’s done. … I know I wouldn’t be here without Him, and I hope to pass it down to more kids,” he said.

After seeing God at work in both his and Ernesto Sr.’s life, Tito wants people who look up to him or watch him fight to know that faith is at the center of his story. All of the success he’s had — as well as all the adversity he’s overcome — is a testament to God’s love and faithfulness.

“That’s really what I want people to take out of [my story], is how my faith kind of led me to be the man I am now, and that God can change anybody,” he said.

By this time next year, Tito is hoping to have an opportunity to fight for a world title. The plan is to get as many high-profile fights scheduled as possible in order to make that happen. Whether it does or not, Tito will keep trusting in God’s plan for him just like he’s done throughout his career.

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