LAS VEGAS -- Boxer Joe Mesi's lengthy battle to return to the ring came to a happy conclusion Monday when a Nevada state judge overturned the medical suspension that had kept the unbeaten Town of Tonawanda heavyweight sidelined for nearly two years.
"It's a great Christmas present," Mesi said after 8th Judicial District Judge Douglas Herndon rendered his decision.
Mesi, suspended since March 2004 because of brain bleeds, is now free to apply for a boxing license in any state. He still must meet the health standards of state commissions and would meet resistance in many states, including New York.
He had been banned from fighting anywhere in the United States under federal law that forces all states to honor a medical suspension.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Mesi after he suffered multiple brain bleeds during his last bout. Mesi narrowly beat Vassiliy Jirov but was knocked down three times in the final two rounds.
Mesi, 32, sued the commission after it unanimously denied his reinstatement at hearings in Las Vegas in April and June.
Herndon's ruling was based on his belief a suspension cannot last longer than an active license. Boxing licenses in Nevada expire Dec. 31 of the year they're issued.
"The jurisdiction of the Nevada State Athletic Commission over Mr. Mesi is based upon him having a license to box in this state during the calendar year 2004," Herndon said. "If that license expires at the end of the year, their jurisdiction expires. I can't see how the suspension can outlive their jurisdiction over him."
The point wasn't even discussed during the nearly two-hour hearing in which Mesi's lead attorney, noted constitutional specialist Paul Cambria, argued the commission had violated Mesi's right to due process.
Herndon validated the Nevada State Athletic Commission's handling of the suspension but couldn't find a reason to maintain it if Mesi didn't even have a license.
"Our point still is that the suspension should stay until he's fit for further competition," said Nevada chief deputy attorney general Keith Kizer. "But the judge was clear in why he made the decision he did.
"Mr. Mesi still hasn't established he is fit to fight again, and I'm confident other states will take that into consideration when he applies."
Mesi said he will begin training after Christmas but said there is no timetable for when his next bout will be. He is 29-0 with 25 knockouts and became the World Boxing Council's top-rated contender shortly after he beat Jirov.