Mesi eyes "Real Deal" with Holyfield
By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Count Joe Mesi in as a member of the "Evander Holyfield Fan Club."
The embattled Buffalo-area heavyweight, whose seemingly title-bound career was sidetracked three years ago by a still-controversial head injury, will be among those cheering loudest when the 44-year-old veteran makes his grab for a slice of the division?s championship pie in October.
Holyfield will meet WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov on Oct. 13 in Moscow.
"That's a fight we'll definitely be watching and we'll be hoping (Holyfield) wins, no question," said Mesi's father and manager, Jack, in a Tuesday afternoon phone interview. "He's the biggest name out there and that?s a fight we'd be interested in making if things work out for him."
Mesi's own progress toward a title shot was at least temporarily halted this week when he pulled out of a scheduled Saturday night bout with Sherman Williams after aggravating a back injury suffered earlier this year. Both the meeting with Williams and another bout scheduled for September in Michigan have been scrubbed.
He'll not return to action until October at the earliest, according to Jack Mesi.
A prospective bout with Holyfield was being discussed by the two camps even before the recent schedule shuffling, which saw the former Olympian tapped to face Ibragimov after the Russian?s original foe -- WBA title holder Ruslan Chagaev -- pulled out with an undisclosed injury.
Mesi is 6-0 in his own return to the ring since he suffered brain bleeds following a violent decision victory over Vassilly Jirov in March 2004 in Las Vegas. Now 33 years old, he was inactive for more than two years while trying to regain a boxing license that was stripped as a result of the head injury.
Joe Mesi was inactive for more than two years while trying to regain a boxing license.
He's fought in Puerto Rico, Quebec, Arkansas (twice), Michigan and West Virginia on the comeback and has still not gotten licensing needed to fight in bouts sanctioned by powerful commissions in Nevada, New York and New Jersey, though the elder Mesi claims the issue is based on politics, not medicine.
"It's 100 percent political. There?s no doubt about it," he said. "And you watch, the language that the commissions use in describing these injuries and how common they are will be changed. It may not be changed in time for it to matter for Joe Mesi, but it will be changed."
In the mean time, however, he may have found another way to fight in his home state.
The newly formed Seneca Nation Boxing Commission will stage its first pro card at the Seneca Nation Casino in Niagara Falls, N.Y. on Aug. 31. Seneca Nation president Maurice John said at a recent awards dinner in Buffalo that the commission was "100 percent behind Joe Mesi?s boxing career."
Native American commissions throughout the U.S. have held cards on sovereign lands, including the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in Manistee, Mich. -- where Mesi was licensed to fight Jason Weiss in September 2006. Mesi won via four-round decision in the fourth bout of his six-fight return.
"It's an option that we'll surely be looking at," Jack Mesi said.
And as for how long they'll wait for their chance at a belt, the deadline is flexible.
"It's about the title," Jack Mesi said. "Look at Evander, he's 44. So there's no time limit as long as things are going well. Winning the championship is the goal. Joe feels good. Outside of the back injury, he?s probably better than he was before. He?s doing things in training that he wasn't doing three years ago.
"The only one of the four champions who'd require any sort of special plan or special preparation is Klitschko. So we're looking for big fights, and when they come we'll be ready. Within 12 months, we think we should be looking at something significant. That?s what we're here for."
Felix Trinidad apparently has comebacking on the brain, too.
The one-time Puerto Rican hotshot, a former champion at 147, 154 and 160 pounds before suffering one-sided losses to recent foes Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright, has announced plans to return for a proposed megamatch with Roy Jones Jr.
"It is true in the past that I was saying I wasn't coming back," Trinidad said. "But I've led a clean life and I'm healthy. I have too much boxing still inside of me. I've said I always wanted to fight the great fighters and I want to fight Roy Jones."
Trinidad has not fought since dropping a unanimous 12-round decision to Wright in May 2005. The match with Jones was nearly made back in 2001, but Trinidad was beaten by Hopkins in the finals of a middleweight championship tournament on Sept. 29.
He initially won the IBF's welterweight title in 1993 then added the WBA's light middleweight crown in 2000. He improved to 40-0 with a stoppage of William Joppy for the WBA middleweight belt in May 2001, but is 2-2 in four fights since.
Jones, who lost three straight fights -- two by knockout -- between May 2004 and October 2005, has since won consecutive 12-round scorecard verdicts over Prince Badi Ajamu in Boise, Idaho and Anthony Hanshaw in Biloxi, Miss.
He defeated Hopkins for his first career title -- the WBA middleweight crown -- in May 1993 before beating James Toney for super middleweight supremacy in November 1994. Light heavyweight title No. 1 came with a defeat of Mike McCallum two years later, and Jones eventually climbed the heavyweight ladder to topple John Ruiz in March 2003.
He?s 3-3 in six fights since, with stoppage losses to Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson.
"Tito is a great champion," Jones said. "Somebody like that is going to challenge you, and you'd be stupid to turn it down."
The two signed the contracts at promoter Don King?s offices on Monday.
The fight is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 26 at a site to be determined.
Now, from the "my dad can knock out your dad department."
Mexican light welterweight Jose Gerardo "Pipino" Cuevas Jr., son of the slugging former WBA welterweight champion, returns to the ring Friday on the heels of the first loss in his 12-bout professional career -- a fourth-round TKO at the hands of veteran trialhorse Jorge Luis Lopez.
The younger Cuevas will face an as-yet-unnamed opponent in his comeback fight, during which he'll try to restart a run that had yielded nine stoppages and two decision wins over the 24 months book-ended by his February 2005 debut and a February 2007 defeat of Guadalupe Arce.
And for a little extra motivation, he need only check his local sports page.
Just 48 hours or so prior to Cuevas?s scheduled ring entrance, the son of a former Papa Cuevas conqueror took another step in his own second-generation career.
Ronald Hearns, borrowing his own father's secondary "Motor City Cobra" nickname, improved his pro slate to 15-0 with a second-round stoppage of veteran North Carolina vagabond Edson Aquirre in the headliner of a seven-bout card at Frontier Field in Rochester, N.Y.
The win was the second straight near the light middleweight limit for the lanky 6-foot-3 right-hander, who tipped the scales at 164 pounds for a December 2006 knockout of Robert Smallwood before getting down to 156 1/2 for his eight-round decision over Dennis Sharpe just three months ago in Memphis. He weighed in at a slim 152 1/2 against Aquirre.
So, Hearns-Cuevas II, anyone?
The memorable first run-in between the families occurred 27 years ago in Detroit, when Ronald's daddy Thomas both validated his "Hitman" status and ended Cuevas?s 11-defense reign with a devastating second-round knockout before a raucous home crowd at Joe Louis Arena.
The loss marked the end of elite-level status for the elder Cuevas, who went 8-8 in his last 16 fights and retired after a KO loss to Lupe Aquino in September 1989.
Hearns, who met Ray Leonard in the first of their two bouts 13 months after the Cuevas win, remained active through 2000 and captured belts in each division up to cruiserweight. He returned briefly in 2005-06, winning a pair of fights by TKO to up his career mark to 61-5-1.
And finally, the re-coronation of wannabe middleweight royalty tops the charts this weekend.
German-based hero Arthur Abraham, known to his subjects, errr supporters, as "King Arthur," makes the fifth defense of his IBF 160-pound title in a scheduled 12-rounder against challenger Khoren Gevor at Max Schmeling Halle on Saturday night.
Though a distant second banana to WBC/WBO champ Jermain Taylor in terms of worldwide recognition, the Armenian-born right-hander has established himself as a legitimate successor to Taylor?s slot should the American vacate the division following next month?s match with unbeaten foe Kelly Pavlik.
Abraham claimed the vacant IBF belt with a fifth-round KO of Kingsley Ikeke in December 2005, then defended it three times in 2006 and once more earlier this year, scoring a trio of unanimous decisions and one early stoppage. A 12-round schooling of then-unbeaten Edison Miranda 11 months ago has been the highlight of the reign, coming via scores of 114-109, 115-109 and 116-109.
Gevor, a 28-year-old born in Edmiazin, Armenia, won his first 11 bouts as a pro before suffering consecutive losses -- by technical decision and TKO -- to Czech light middleweight Lucas Konecny. He?s won 16 straight since the skid, including an eight-round decision over Rafael Sosa Pintos in his last outing on April 28.
Elsewhere on the title-bout front, it's a coming out party for the World Boxing Foundation.
The lightly regarded Australian-based organization will see a pair of its championship belts up for grabs on a single Friday night card in Gauteng, South Africa.
Unbeaten incumbent Simphiwe Nongqayi risks his 115-pound strap against Paraguayan mouthful Feliciano Dario Azuaga Ledezma in the main event, while emerging knockout artist Zolani Tete squares off with Indonesian import Vicky Tahumil for the vacant 112-pound crown.
Nongqayi, who?s 12-0 with five KO wins, is making the second defense of the title he earned in December 2006 with an eighth-round stoppage of Khulile Makeba. He followed that triumph with a seventh-round TKO of Rafael Tirado in May. Ledezma, meanwhile, is a veteran of 83 pro fights and has won just four of his last nine since April 2005.
Tete has been a pro for just 15 months and has first-round stoppages in six of his seven career outings. The only foe to last more than three minutes -- fellow South African Zukile Toko -- was dispatched in the fifth. The light- hitting Tahumil, who has 12 KOs in 33 wins, was unbeaten in 35 fights before a third-round KO loss to Daiki Kameda in February.
Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at email@example.com. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show, broadcast weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com).