"Baby Joe" Mesi, 32, Buffalo's undefeated heavyweight boxer, is set to fight Ron Bellamy of North Carolina on April 1 in Puerto Rico. Mesi discussed his career.
Q: Why risk fighting again?
A: Simply because I feel that I'm at no risk. . . . After visiting the best doctors in North America and after resting two years and taking the necessary precautions, I feel comfortable enough entering the ring with my doctor's advice and support. I feel I'm at no greater risk than my opponents. I feel comfortable enough to resume my career and, more so, because it's a goal of mine. I have several goals in life -- this being one of the biggest, becoming heavyweight champion and giving boxing the best effort I can give it -- and I want to achieve my goals, more than anything.
Q: How does your case affect other boxers, and the sport itself?
A: I guess that remains to be seen. I know that in the sport of boxing there are some loopholes in the system. For example, in 2000 U.S. legislation created the Muhammad Ali Act. According to the act, once a state commission suspends a fighter, that fighter is suspended in all states. It's a good rule. As my Nevada judge said, once my license expired I was no longer suspended. I guess that's a loophole in the system, one of many loopholes.
Q: How did this affect your career?
A: I don't know yet how the episode has affected my career, because I haven't fought yet. I know I have the capability of resuming my career April 1, but I've yet to see how my career will go. I feel comfortable, at this point, that it's going to go well. I'm comfortable that the two-year layoff was more of a help to me in my career than it will hurt me. People question that, after two years off, I won't be the same. Maybe I'll be better, maybe I'll be worse. I feel that I'll be a better fighter because of the rest. I'm 32 years old, but I'm a young 32-year-old because I started boxing late and I haven't had many hard fights, and I feel like I'm a fresh fighter.
Q: What is it you want to achieve?
A: I have several goals: to become a heavyweight champion. I've put a lot of time and effort into this sport and I believe that I can and will become heavyweight champion. The current heavyweight champion, Hasim Rahman, I've defeated in the amateurs. Two guys that I have defeated, Monte Barrett and DaVaryll Williamson, in my two years that I have had off, both have fought for world titles. I'm right up there with these guys. I think that I can become the heavyweight champion. I also want to bring big-time boxing back to Western New York, which I think I've done quite a bit.
Q: What about achievements and work outside the ring?
A: There are several things that I want to do after boxing, which I was almost forced to do sooner than I wanted. I want to stay close to the sport, whether or not I'm an active boxer. I want to promote boxers, broadcast the sport of boxing and sports, in general. I want to get into a bit of marketing. I'm going to school, now, for marketing, which will help my promoting career.
Q: What about long-term plans?
A: I was No. 1 in the world two years ago, at the time of my injury and suspension. All I need to do is to regain that position to get my opportunity. At least, I want to get the title shot that I have proven I deserve. . . .
Principles mean more to me than money or success. This isn't what drives me. I really believe that I am healthy, I'm fit. I'm at no greater risk than any of the other fighters. . . .I'm a confident and a fresh fighter and there won't be any more serious injuries like the one I had. And I will be heavyweight champion.