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MESI SIGNS NEW OPPONENT

Joe Mesi was forced to look for a new opponent Wednesday, just nine days before his scheduled appearance on ESPN 2's "Friday Night Fights." It was a quick search.

The Buffalo News has learned Derrick Banks will be named today as Mesi's foe for the Nov. 2 bout at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut.

The undefeated Town of Tonawanda heavyweight was supposed to face Sherman Williams. But Williams seriously injured an elbow while sparring this week and will not be able to fight.

Instead, Mesi will face Banks, who is 20-9-1 with seven knockouts.

"He's a journeyman, tough-guy fighter, which is what Joe was fighting anyway," said Ron Katz, the matchmaker for the event's promoter, Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing. "He's a really solid veteran. He's pumped for the fight, and he wants it."

Banks, a 30-year-old Detroit native, had lost five straight fights dating to 1999 before winning an eight-round decision over Brad Roane less than two weeks ago. Since fighters generally take time off after a fight, it's uncertain how ready Banks will be for 10 rounds against Mesi.

"I'm kind of used to (last-minute changes) at this point of my career," Mesi said. "But as long as we're getting the exposure and they come up with a nice opponent I'm happy with it. And I think he's a worthy opponent."

Mesi has basic knowledge of Banks. Mesi's team -- father/co-manager Jack Mesi and trainer Juan DeLeon -- quickly dissected Banks videos Wednesday night.

"The styles are a little different," Mesi said, comparing Banks to Williams. "Banks throws a couple different punches. He's pretty busy, very active. Some rounds he moves, some rounds he puts pressure. But I'm not one-dimensional myself. I'll be just fine."

Mesi is 20-0 with 18 KOs. He is coming off a pair of victories earlier this year against faded ex-contenders Jorge Luis Gonzalez and Bert Cooper in the Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center.

But for his next bout Mesi was determined to take on better competition on a national stage.

Mesi agreed to fight for about half the money he had been making with Ontario-based promoter Orion Sports Management so SRL Boxing could place him on ESPN 2. Mesi was under the impression his fight would be a main event, but it was later discovered it would be secondary to a Lou Savarese-David Bostice bout.

"I still think it's a step up," Mesi said of Banks. "He's one of those guys who, if you want to get to the top, you have to get past."
e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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