Joe Mesi appreciates people who support his decision to resume his boxing career and understands why people believe he should hang up his gloves and walk away while he can. There's no hiding the fact he's coming back from a head injury, so he comprehends why fans are troubled by his return.
Just so they know, he's not worried at all.
The Town of Tonawanda heavyweight officially returns to the ring April 1 for the first time in nearly two years when he fights 41-year-old Ron Bellamy just outside San Juan, Puerto Rico. The date April 1 long ago was designated for fools, but Mesi believes he's intelligent enough to calculate whatever medical risks might be ahead.
"If I had reservations, I wouldn't be here," Mesi said by telephone from San Juan. "It's a simple answer, but I'm a pretty sensible, educated person with a good head on my shoulders. I know many people support me in my return. Many people are against it. I respect people's opinions. Doctors around the world have different opinions on diseases, illnesses, injuries, medications.
"I feel confident enough due to rest, due to the precautions we took, due to the research I did and my doctors did, it's all there. I'm really confident in my return."
Mesi's battle between the ring and the courts has been well documented after he suffered at least two brain bleeds during a March 2004 fight with Vassiliy Jirov in Las Vegas. He was suspended by the Nevada Athletic Commission, which prevented him from fighting in the United States.
After a lengthy court battle, a judge ruled that he could no longer be suspended once his boxing license expired. He was granted a license in Puerto Rico last month.
Mesi was the World Boxing Council's top-ranked contender at the time of the injury with a 29-0 record that included 25 knockouts. Mesi was working toward a heavyweight title shot when his career began crumbling under medical records and arguments among experts about whether he should fight again.
"If I was seriously injured and told myself that I shouldn't return, believe me, I could live with it," he said. "I don't want to get killed. However, I'm very confident in my return, so I can live with it."
Mesi, 32, now is looking to resume his quest to become a heavyweight champion. It starts in Puerto Rico, where he has been training for a month. Mesi's weight hovered around 270 pounds at one point, but he expects to be about 240 when he fights Bellamy. The bout, scheduled for eight rounds, is considered a tuneup for Mesi.
"Those two years can never be given back to me," Mesi said. "They were my prime years as far as my age goes, and they can never be given back to me. However, I'm a young 32-year-old person. I matured late in life. I feel very strong and quick. I haven't lost a step."
Mesi knew little about Bellamy, who is 6-foot-5, 250 pounds. Bellamy is 14-4-4 with nine knockouts. He doesn't possess Mesi's skills or experience and has been carried out of the ring twice in his last three fights, all losses. Still, many see him as a sound first opponent for Mesi's comeback because Bellamy is strong and possesses punching power.
Bellamy isn't expected to challenge Mesi, but he will place the Western New Yorker under live boxing conditions for the first time in two years. Mesi was anxious to shake off the rust and test his skills after two years of fighting everywhere but the ring.
"I feel really good," Mesi said. "I'm there. Getting in shape is not the hard part. I've always been able to do that, and I'm a very hard worker. It's getting to become the boxer I was two years ago, that's the challenge. Becoming the boxer I was two years ago is going to take a few months. I've accepted that. I'm not in a rush."