Joe Mesi: “I guarantee I’ll become the fighter I once was”
By INTERVIEW by Dan Horgan (July 8, 2006)
After struggling nearly two years with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Joe Mesi is on his way back, but the ‘Baby Joe’ bandwagon is smaller than ever. Once a top ten contender who was featured regularly on HBO, Mesi now struggles to find bouts, fighting out of the United States against less than stellar opponents.  In addition, Mesi does not appear to be the same wrecking machine he was three years ago, and has many doubters as he makes his journey back atop the heavyweight division.

Although he self admittedly needs to lose some weight and fine tune his skills, Mesi is positive that he will regain his prime form.  Sure there will be doubters, but Mesi himself truly believes that he will eventually become heavyweight champion of the world.  Wednesday night, I spoke with Mesi to talk about his long haul back to the top ten, and to get his thoughts on the heavyweight division today.

DH: In your last fight against Stephane Tessier, the general consensus was that although you clearly won the fight, you did not show the skills that brought you to the top of the division a few years back.  Can you give yourself an assessment?

Well, I was only 70% back. I’m not clearly the fighter I was, but people expect to see what they remember from two and a half years ago, and it’s not going to happen for some time now.  However, I see myself generally getting better.  I still have some weight to lose, and I still have some conditioning to do.  So yeah, it’s going to take some time.

DH: Did you have a bad night that night, or was that how you were feeling throughout training camp as well?

No.  I tell you what, I watched the tape, and I watched it on mute, and watching it on mute, I realized I didn’t do
all that bad.  When you dispel the criticism – you have those guys on ESPN, some are friends there, and some enemies (laughs) – I really wasn’t all that bad. Was I fast or strong?  No.  But I generally did what I needed to do.  I was in with a last minute opponent who stepped up the morning of the fight, and I was warned of his very defensive style.  So there’s not much more I could have done there.  But, you know, I’ll get to where I once was.

DH: What’s the latest on the hand injury?

It’s fine, it’s just a bruise.  The only reason we postponed the fight, was it was in fourteen days, and in fourteen days, you can’t really improve on conditioning.  You can’t really correct any mistakes in fourteen days.  You know, we want to stay busy, but we realize that’s a little too busy.  Right now, we are planning something in August.  We have several offers on the table, we don’t know where or when yet, but we are definitely planning to fight in August.

DH: Say that throughout this coming back process, it just doesn’t click.  You don’t reach the point where you were back in 2004, and you realize that you never will.  Will you continue to fight?

I guarantee that I will become the fighter that I once was, but to answer your question, if I don’t, we’ll see.  We’ll see how the heavyweight division is.  I still have more heart and will than most heavyweights.  I can still offer up exciting fights.  You know, I generate money, I generate fans.  I still will offer up my best, but I guarantee that I will become at least as good as I once was, if not better.

DH: During the layoff, obviously you weren’t sparring, but were you keeping in shape?

I actually was not.  It was a very touchy subject of whether or not I should even be in the boxing gym.  It was a constant battle with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and there really wasn’t time for training.  I really didn’t do much at all.  Believe me, there were several days and even weeks where I wondered if I would even fight again.

DH: There has been a lot of heavyweight news as of late, I’m going to say a fight, and I want to hear your thoughts on it. The Brock-Ibragimov fight.

Calvin Brock is a nice kid, I know him from the amateurs.  I actually think that Brock would be a good test for me in a few more months.  Once I get back to the top level, I would like a fight with him.  And with Timor, I had never seen him fight before and he was not as impressive as I expected him to be.

DH: The Rahman-Maskaev fight.

These are two guys that are ranked high in the WBC that I think I could beat. I beat Rahman in the amateurs, and he also defeated me, so we have a little history together.  He is the one champion I want the most.  We’ve been very friendly through the years.  We’d be very marketable up in this area.  He has his Rochester following, I have my Buffalo following.  People here, that’s all they talk about.  I think it’s the most marketable and best fight for me.

DH: The Peter-Toney fight.

That’s very, very interesting.  This is the one time where Toney will have a significant size disadvantage.  Peter is obviously a huge man.  He’s very, very strong, but I believe that he lacks certain assets that it takes to be a top heavyweight.  Toney is always a hard fight due to his experience and ability to stay calm in the ring, but I think that Peter will overpower him.

DH: The Klitschko-Briggs fight.

Well, Briggs certainly earned his way back into the top ten.  Klitschko right now is very confident coming off of his win over Byrd.  I’ve always thought he was the better of the two Klitschko brothers.  He’s more athletic, more skilful.  He did lack some heart sometimes, he did lack some conditioning sometimes, but he always looked better than his brother, and I think he will have the edge over Briggs who I think has always lacked a little heart.

DH: Is there anything that you would like to say in closing?

Yeah, the heavyweight division right now is a very tough division.  Everyone is a very tough fight.  But what it lacks is a star.  Now, I’m not saying that I’m a star, but I’m the closest thing to it.  I generate a lot of fans, I generate a lot of money, and I truly believe that I will become champion.

DH: Joe, thank you very much for taking time out for this interview.  Everyone here at wishes you the best.

You got it, thanks a lot man.

Writer’s note: Before I did this interview, I was not a believer in Joe Mesi’s comeback.  I did not think that he could regain the speed and power that brought him to the top ten a few years ago, but after listening to him, I now do.  A well spoken and truly down to earth guy, Mesi believes with every ounce of his body that he will become champion of the world, and I do too.

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