Should Career of Joe Mesi Been Shortened?

By Ken Hissner - 03/01/2024 - Comments

Heavyweight boxer ”Baby” Joe Mesi had his career shortened due to medical reasons. Mesi, fighting out of Buffalo, New York, ended his career unbeaten. He fought from November of 1997 to October of 2007.

It wasn’t until his twelfth fight that his opponent had a winning record. He scored ten stoppages in those first eleven fights. Brian “Mr.” Sargent, 13-9, stopped him in the first round.

In December of 1999, Mesi stopped Gary Winmon, 25-2, in the first round at the Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA. After two more stoppages Mesi traveled to Montreal, Canada stopping Joey Guy, 27-4, in 3 rounds at Niagara Falls, in Ontario.

Next with a record of 18-0 Mesi stopped the 6’7” Cuban Jorge Luis Gonzalez, 31-6, in April of 2007. Then ‘Smokin’ Bert Cooper, 35-20, fell in 7 rounds.

Two fights later, Mesi stopped Keith “The Fighting Knight” McKnight, 41-3, in 6 rounds, in Buffalo. He followed this by stopping Talmadge “Two Guns” Griffis, 21-2-3, in 5 rounds in Scottsdale, AZ.

Back in Buffalo, Mesi stopped Nigerian David Izon, 27-4, in 9 rounds. Two fights later he added his second title stopping Robert Davis, 28-5, in the first round for the vacant NABF title.

In his next two fights, Mesi stopped DaVarryl “Touch of Sleep” Williamson, 18-1, in the first round in Buffalo. Then he defeated Monte “Two Gunz” Barrett, 29-2, at Madison Square Garden, New York, by majority decision.

At 28-0, Mesi faced what would be his toughest opponent in a war in 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist southpaw Vassiliy “The Tiger” Jirov, 33-1.

In the sixth round, there was a clash of heads. In the ninth round, Jirov dropped Mesi with a right on the back of the head, dropping him for an 8-count. In the tenth round again Mesi was dropped by Jirov with a right behind the head.

Referee Jay Nady warned Jirov but failed to take a point from him for hitting Mesi behind the head at any time.

All three judges scored it 94-93 for Mesi. It seemed like the two knockdowns would have given Jirov the edge, but it didn’t. It was obvious the blows behind the head from Jirov had taken its toll.

It would be two years before returning to the ring for Mesi. Blood on the brain had been seen on scans, and it looked like his career was over. He was medically suspended.

When Mesi returned to the ring, he would never fight another contender. He would return winning in an 8-rounder in Puerto Rico, winning all eight rounds over Ronald “The Prophet” Bellamy, 14-4-4, who had been stopped in two of his previous three losses.

Then, there was another fight outside the country in Montreal, Canada, winning by decision over Stephane Tessier, 3-7, over six rounds. Then he was finally able to get a license to fight in the US, this time over another losing record opponent, Dennis “Mad Dog” Matthews, 9-27, at the County Fair Grounds in Arkansas, stopping him in 2 rounds in a scheduled four-rounder.

In another four-rounder, he defeated Jason Weiss, 3-1, in Michigan, all fights in 1996. In 1997 in all scheduled 10 round bouts he scored first round stoppages with the final one for the vacant WBC USA title stopping Shannon Miller, 15-3.

Seems his career was over after the Jirov fight due to the foul punches behind the head that were never ruled fouls. Returning after two years he wasn’t the same fighter but was he treated fairly by the commissions?

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