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Boxer's death won't help Mesi state his case

Joe Mesi might want to consider filing a change-of-venue request for his upcoming Nevada court date.

The undefeated Town of Tonawanda heavyweight is hopeful the 8th Judicial District Court in Las Vegas will overturn the suspension that has kept him out of the ring for 18 months and counting.

But the climate for change isn't favorable in Las Vegas, and it may well never be, not after unseated lightweight champ Leavander Johnson died from injuries similar to the ones Mesi suffered against Vassiliy Jirov in March 2004.

Johnson died Thursday from a massive subdural hematoma after absorbing a colossal beating five days earlier at the MGM Grand. It was the second Las Vegas ring death in 2 1/2 months and the fourth time a fighter had been diagnosed with brain bleeds since May.

Finding a sympathetic judge in Las Vegas could be a difficult task when boxing-related brain injuries have been so common in headlines and on the nightly news.

"It's not supposed to prejudice a judge, but judges are only human," Mesi said.

Super featherweight Martin Sanchez died in July. Featherweight William Abelyan and bantamweight Leopoldo Gonzalez suffered subdural hematomas in May, just a few weeks before Mesi went before the Nevada State Athletic Commission in hopes of having his suspension lifted.

With Abelyan and Gonzalez fresh on their minds, the commission unanimously voted to uphold the indefinite suspension, essentially banning Mesi from fighting in the United States.

"The timing has been bad for us," said Mesi, who will turn 32 in November. "It happened before the last hearing and now Leavander Johnson, which is a tragedy. It is a terrible tragedy, but any way you look at this, regardless of whether I'm reinstated tragedies will continue in the sport of boxing. It happened in the past and it's going to happen in the future."

Subdural hematomas are bleeding on the brain due to torn blood vessels, but Mesi insisted "Leavander Johnson is a different case than me and a different injury than me." Mesi suffered multiple minor brain bleeds in his last bout. Johnson's injury was a massive hemorrhage.

Mesi remains adamant that he should be cleared to resume his career, which has been idled at 29-0 with 25 knockouts. His legal team filed its initial brief to Nevada on Sept. 8. The Nevada State Athletic Commission has until Oct. 10 to file its answering brief, and then Mesi's counsel has until 30 days after that to file the final brief and ask for a hearing.

Based on that timetable, it would appear Mesi would go to court in November.

Mesi recently took his real-estate license test, but he cautions against reading anything into that. He promised he would fight again regardless of what the judge decides. He described the outpouring of support he has received from the local community, particularly the Man of the Year Award he will receive Oct. 9 from the Federation of Italian-American Societies.

"We're certain we're going to fight again, whether it is under the court case and my suspension being lifted and reinstated in the U.S. or fighting elsewhere," said Mesi, who also would like to get into broadcasting or politics. "But we're confident in our case.

"We've been weeding through offers from other parts of the world. Our case has raised a lot of awareness. We've had quite decent offers. I won't say from where or from who, but we're starting to look into them."

One Internet rumor had Mesi fighting former champion Evander Holyfield in Italy. There also has been talk of Mesi fighting in Calgary.

Mesi said he weighs 262 pounds -- 35 pounds heavier than the night he fought Jirov -- and has recently resumed running after pulling his hamstring this summer while playing slow-pitch softball. He estimated it would take him a month to get into fighting shape.

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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