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MEDICAL PANEL TELLS MESI RETURN TO BOXING COULD KILL HIM
ALL FOUR DOCTORS VOTE AGAINST REMOVING SUSPENSION

Joe Mesi sat in front of four respected doctors and eagerly awaited their diagnosis.

All of them told Mesi he could die if he ever boxed again.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission's medical advisory board Monday afternoon recommended with absolute certainty Mesi's suspension should be upheld.

All four doctors in attendance voted against lifting the suspension placed on the former heavyweight contender after he suffered multiple brain bleeds in his March 2004 bout with Vassiliy Jirov at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.

Brain bleeds like the ones Mesi suffered that night, torn vessels medically known as subdural hematomas, are the leading cause of boxing deaths.

"You're at significant risk of injury cranially and possibly even dying in the ring," neurosurgeon Albert Capanna bluntly told Mesi.

Jack Mesi, the fighter's father and manager, loudly exhaled and shook his head.

"I don't want to read about him in an obituary," added retinal specialist Jeffrey Parker.

Mesi left the hearing without commenting. The 31-year-old Sweet Home High graduate avoided the assembled media by leaving from the back of the Grant Sawyer Building.

"We believe we presented a strong case," Mesi spokesman Tony Farina said. "If we didn't believe Joe was 100 percent we wouldn't have been here. This is obviously very disappointing."

The verdict does not guarantee the commission will refuse Mesi's request to fight when its five commissioners convene for a May 5 hearing in Las Vegas.

But based on the way Monday's session unfolded, it would be extremely difficult to disregard the medical advisory board's firm stance. One board member, family physician Anthony Pollard, was excused because of an illness, but his vote wouldn't have mattered.

Things went so poorly, some with close ties to the commission predicted Mesi might want to withdraw his request altogether and avoid the next hearing.

"There are a lot of different things that could happen here," Farina said. "I don't think the family is prepared to say right now. The consultations haven't been completed yet. It may be a few more days before we decide what the next step is."

The hearing actually revealed more disturbing information about Mesi's health.

Last spring, when reports first surfaced Mesi had suffered multiple brain bleeds, he flatly denied it, insisting he merely had a concussion. Mesi and his sports neurologist, Dr. Robert Cantu, eventually admitted one small brain bleed last fall.

But Cantu acknowledged a second brain bleed Monday to concur with the University of California at Los Angeles neuroradiology department's independent review of Mesi's brain scans.

It also was disclosed in evaluations from Dr. Robert Plunkett of University at Buffalo Neurosurgery that about a month after the fight one of Mesi's bleeds had re-opened and increased in size. Mesi had attempted to lift a large dresser while moving into his new Williamsville home, and the strain tore open one of the vessels even more.

A year ago, Plunkett advised Mesi he was at an increased risk of experiencing similar injuries again if he continued to box.

Mesi told The Buffalo News last month if a doctor were to inform him he was at any greater danger than his opponent of having another brain injury he would not be seeking reinstatement.

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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