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DOWN FOR THE COUNT?
MESI SHOULD ACCEPT DOCTORS' DECISION THAT ANOTHER FIGHT COULD KILL HIM

Note to Baby Joe: We're sorry, buddy, but this is for your own good. As promising a career as you might have had if you hadn't taken those last few hits to your head, you're worth more to us alive than as a dead man wearing boxing gloves to his grave.

Earlier this week, the Nevada State Athletic Commission's medical advisory board voted unanimously to recommend Joe Mesi's continued suspension from the world of boxing because of brain bleeds that it said could kill him if he stepped back into the ring. For a man with big dreams and a region with great hopes for a heavyweight champ from Western New York, the board's recommendation must have been the most painful blow he's ever taken.

Mesi and his doctor spent an hour and 40 minutes Monday trying to persuade four well-respected physicians that he was in no greater danger of suffering further brain damage if he were to resume his boxing career. The doctors were understandably skeptical of the claim, especially after it became clear that one of his brain bleeds reopened a month after his fight against Vassiliy Jirov in March of last year. Neurologist Margaret Goodman went so far as to say that Mesi shouldn't even return to a gym or engage in any activity that could traumatize his brain further.

It's not what Mesi wanted to hear, but we sure do hope he was listening. We have to wonder. For months after Buffalo News sports reporter Tim Graham broke the news back in April 2004 that Mesi had potentially career-ending brain bleeds, Mesi and company continued to deny the truth. Even after admitting he had suffered a "small" subdural hematoma, he continued to insist the injury should not stand in the way of a long boxing career. Even with the advisory board's assessment -- a unanimous verdict by four different doctors -- Mesi hasn't yet conceded defeat, leaving open the possibility that he might fight his suspension in court or fight overseas.

Mesi's a fighter whose sense of destiny has obviously been stroked by his 29-0 career record. But that feeling of inevitability could well lead to a short life span. It's time for Baby Joe to accept the reality of his situation. He needs to understand that neither the media nor the Nevada State Athletic Commission's medical advisory board is trying to punish him or unjustly rob him of a rich heavyweight career.

If we didn't care about Mesi, we wouldn't be overly concerned about him boxing his way to an early demise. But we do care. Mesi is a talented and personable young man who has been embraced by Western New York, and still has much to offer this community.

We think he should live to fight another day -- outside the ring. It's time for him to retire with grace and accept a fond farewell from the sport he so loves.

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