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Articles of 2004

Joe Mesi Great White Hope? I Think Not

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This past weekend I was at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas to see Winky Wright and Shane Mosley battle it out for supremacy in the jr. middleweight division. Wright, using his superior size and skill, would handily beat Mosley via 12-round decision.

On the undercard, I got my first live look at 'Baby' Joe Mesi, the latest in a long line of 'great white hopes' in the heavyweight division. All I can say is that after seeing Mesi hold on for dear life against a blown up cruiserweight in Vasilliy Jirov, that to call Mesi a 'great white hope' is an insult to fine fighters such as Gerry Cooney and Tommy Morrison.

Let me make this clear, Mesi is a very nice guy, intelligent, articulate, personable and good looking. It's really a shame that he really can't fight that much, because he would be great for the business and industry of boxing.

It was just four months ago that Mesi faded late- after another fast start- against trial-horse Monte Barrett at the Madison Square Garden in New York. After knocking down the native of Brooklyn early and getting out to a big lead, he would be floored himself and have to hold on for a narrow victory. It was brushed off as a bad night and a learning experience for a still-developing heavyweight. Ok, I guess you could buy that rationale then.

For this fight he came in much better physical condition and came in at 227- 11 rounds lighter than the Barrett fight- and he was facing a fading cruiserweight in Jirov, who had struggled mightily in comeback fights against Ernest Mateen and Joseph Kiwanuka, two guys who were blown-up light heavyweights. This wasn't so much a fight, but a sacrifice of a pretty good fighter. Jirov, simply hadn't looked the same after his brutal fight with James Toney last April.

Mesi would build up a huge, seemingly insurmountable lead throughout the first eight rounds. All the scorecards had him up by seven rounds but in the ninth he would be sent to the canvas with a clubbing left hand. It seemed like just another blip on the radar screen but it was much more than that when for some reason instead of sitting on his big lead and going into the boxing version of 'the four corners' and getting on his bicycle, he would engage Jirov in toe-to-toe action.

And if there's one thing that Jirov still has, is a willingness to fight till the very end and he would land a series of hard left crosses and uppercuts that would send a fading Mesi to the canvas twice. But to his credit, Mesi would hold on and survive the onslaught and win a close decision as all three judges had Mesi on top by a score of 94-93.

This was a night that was supposed to bring added exposure to Mesi. Instead, it was a night that exposed him.

Exposed him as a guy with just a decent punch, shaky chin and the stamina of a sprinter. The bottom line is, no matter what HBO, Buffalo or his promotional team may try to tell us, he just doesn't have it. At least Cooney had a monster left hook, as did Morrison. Mesi, is a decent puncher in his own right, but they never really struggled as badly as he did against such hand-picked opposition. It was only till they faced the Larry Holmes' and Lennox Lewis' of the world, did those two really struggle. It's just my opinion that Cooney and Morrison don't even need four rounds to get rid of the guys that Mesi has been struggling against.

This is very reminiscent of a few years ago when HBO pushed the services of another flawed heavyweight, Michael Grant. Grant, like Mesi, was highly marketable and had the look that networks, sponsors and promoters coveted. But there was one problem, he really couldn't fight all that much. But I will say this, to his credit, despite his limited amateur background, Grant does have wins over serviceable guys like Obed Sullivan, David Izon, Lou Savarese and Andrew Golota. In retrospect, for his inexperience, I'd say he had a helluva run. Not bad for a guy more suited to be a power forward than a heavyweight champion.

Mesi, a 1996 Olympic alternate, really doesn't have that excuse and at age 30, he's not exactly a young prospect anymore. His management now faces a serious quandary, do they cash out immediately and try to get the biggest payday against the likes of a Mike Tyson or Roy Jones? Or, do they go to the graveyard and dig up a bevy of dead bodies to knock over and then go for an even bigger payday down the line?

Now I'm not a manager, but I play one behind the keyboard, I do the latter. Because no matter how carefully you match Mesi, you run the risk of getting him tripped up in smaller fights. I say take the sure thing, try and get a multi-million dollar fight with a marquee name way beyond his prime and call it a career.

And you know what? If they do that, win or lose that fight, it can be considered a highly successful run. For a guy with just mediocre skills, to have made that much money in a relatively short time, speaks volumes.

But his chances of being a real heavyweight contender?

I think it's hopeless.

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List

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The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit

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As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns

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Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million Inc.in a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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