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Mesi to fight on Rahman card

Joe Mesi's attempted return to heavyweight prominence will involve an intriguing next step.

The undefeated Town of Tonawandan has been scheduled for a Feb. 22 bout in a nationally televised show featuring former undisputed champ Hasim Rahman in a separate fight.

No opponents have been announced for the event, which Versus will broadcast from the Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort in Chester, W.Va. High-profile Las Vegas firm Top Rank will promote it.

The Mesi and Rahman camps are hoping the event will stir interest in a future match between the heavyweights in Western New York. Rahman has roots in Rochester, where his manager, Steve Nelson, is based.

Mesi and Rahman fought each other as amateurs in the Empire State Games.

"People have been talking about Rahman and Mesi for so many years, and this is as close as we've ever come to having that matchup," Nelson said. "We have both guys on the same card for the first time.

"This is a big step in Joe Mesi's comeback, so there will be a lot of talk about whether this matchup will ever happen. Only time will tell."

Chances for a New York bout are remote for Mesi, who drew large crowds to HSBC Arena. He hasn't been licensed to fight in his home state since suffering multiple brain bleeds in a March 2004 decision over Vassiliy Jirov in Las Vegas.

A Nevada district court judge one year ago ruled Mesi's medical suspension must end there, but that doesn't impact the Sweet Home High alum's New York status. The New York Athletic Commission's medical advisory board doesn't allow fighters who have suffered such brain injuries to compete.

Mesi also will have major hurdles to clear if he wanted to compete at one of the casinos north of the border. Ontario's boxing regulations insist a fighter be licensed in his home jurisdiction, in Mesi's case New York, before it will review an application. Plus, Ontario is strict when it comes to clearing fighters with a history of brain injuries.

Mesi has fought four times after his suspension ended, lacing up his gloves for blue-collar victories in Puerto Rico, Quebec, Arkansas and Michigan. He is 33-0 with 26 knockouts.

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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