By: Ken Hissner
Sometimes it isn’t easy following a legend especially if it’s your father. Eugene “Cyclone” Hart was one of if not the hardest hitting fighters to ever come out of Philadelphia scoring knockouts in his first 19 fights and 28 in his 30 wins. Jesse “Hollywood” Hart grew up in North Philadelphia and won the National Golden Gloves in 2011 along with winning the US Nationals. He entered the 165 lb. 2012 Olympic Trials with an 81-10 record and was on the USA team.
Hart was given four tough opponents in order to reach the finals in the Trials. First up was southpaw Chris “Sweet Pea” Pearson, 93-7, (13-2-1 as a pro) from Ohio who Hart defeated 18-6. Next up was D’Mitrius Ballard (18-0 as a pro) from Temple Hills, MD, who was the 2012 National Golden Gloves champion. Hart defeated him 20-8. Then came Antoine “Action” Douglas from Burke, VA, who had 120 amateur bouts (22-2-1 as a pro) who Hart defeated 14-8.
Photo Credit: Jesse Hart Twitter Account
In the semi-final Hart fought Luis Arias (18-1 as a pro) of Milwaukee, WI, who won the 2010 US Nationals against Hart 4-4 and Arias was given the win. He was 140-24 but was no match for Hart losing 21-6. In the final Hart faced Terrell Gausha (20-1 as a pro) of Cleveland, OH, who Hart lost to in the 2009 US Nationals final. Gausha had gone to Brazil and won Gold in the 2012 Americas Olympic Qualifier in order to qualify for the Olympic Trials. The final ended up 10-10 (34-34 count back; 3-2 vote) and given to Gausha.
This writer felt that decision was unfair to Hart who was already the USA Team member and should have gotten to go to the Olympics. He ended up as the Olympic Alternate to Gausha who went and lost in the second round. As a pro he dropped to 154 losing in an October 2017 title fight to Cuban Erislandy Lara the WBA Super World champion and hasn’t fought since.
Hart felt he had something to prove in the professional ranks after getting side stepped in the Olympic Trials. He left Northern Michigan University where his coach was Al Mitchell from Philadelphia and returned to his roots in Philadelphia. He split his time between returning to his old coach Fred Jenkins at the ABC Rec Center Gym at 26th & Masters in North Philadelphia along with his father Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, at the Joe Hand Gym in South Philadelphia. They co-train Hart.
Hart signed a co-manager contract with Doc Nowicki and Dave Price and signed a promotional contract with Top Rank. He turned professional in June of 2012 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV, scoring a first round stoppage. Then three more stoppages followed going into December of 2012. Hart at 6:03 has the physique to be a light heavyweight like a past champion named Bob Foster.
In Hart’s fifth fight which was his first in Philadelphia at Temple University’s Mc Gonigle Hall he met up with a spoiler named Steven Tyner, 3-8-2, who had fought ten unbeaten opponents up until then with the last five unbeaten. Hart dropped Tyner in the first round and went on to win an easy 40-34, 40-35 twice four round decision.
Six of Hart’s next seven fights were six rounder’s with one four. He won six of those seven by stoppage. Top Ranks Bob Arum knew he had a future champion in Hart. Matchmaker Brad Goodman was matching Hart in a way a boxer should in order to get to a championship. Hart was 12-0 with ten stoppages and ready for his first eight rounder. He had fought in Atlantic City, NJ, three times but still only once in Philadelphia. “I have worked with Jesse from the time he turned professional with Top Rank. It’s doubtful Ramirez would give him a rematch. Jesse is willing to fight anyone even if it means going across the pond to the UK (and fight George Groves or Rock Fielding who hold the WBA titles). With a win over Mike Gravonski (who is No. 11 in the WBA) on August 18th he will enter their ratings. WBC champ David Benavidez is fighting (No. 2) Anthony “The Dog” Dirrell (former WBC World champion). Then there is the other Mexican champion Jose “Bolivita” Uzcategui who holds the IBF title (who defeated Anthony “The Resurrected” Dirrell’s brother Andre in March reversing a loss in their previous fight by DQ. No. 1 is vacant and No. 2 is Caleb “Sweethands” Plant who may be getting the next title fight. Hart is only ranked No. 10 in the June ratings with no July ratings shown),” said Goodman.
Hart was matched with southpaw Samuel Clarkson, 10-2 (currently 21-4 as a pro) from Cedar Hill, TX, at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, in Las Vegas. He was a former 2-time Texas Golden Glove champion and a PAL National champion at 175. This bout would be for the NABF Junior Super Middleweight title. Hart had Clarkson down twice in the fourth round and won all three cards of the judges 80-72. Clarkson would go onto win his next nine fights before losing to current unbeaten WBA World Light Heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol for the interim title.
Hart would post two stoppages in Atlantic City before returning to Philadelphia to stop Samuel Miller, 28-9, in the second round at the 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia. In May of 2015 in his first ten rounder he fought for the vacant USBA title against unbeaten Mike Jimenez, 17-0, out of Chicago. The winner would automatically go into the IBF rankings. The vacant WBO NABO title was also on the line which meant going into the WBO rankings for the winner. Hart stopped Jimenez in the sixth round to enter both the IBF and WBO rankings.
Next up for Hart in September in Las Vegas would be the son of legendary Hall of Fame boxer Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor’s son Aaron, Jr. 19-8-1, at 6:04 out of Cincinnati, OH. Hart would stop Pryor in the ninth round. At the end of 2015 Hart was dropped back to an eight rounder in a “keep busy” fight scoring a first round stoppage in Tucson, AZ. Hart received a right eye laceration in this bout.
In March of 2016 Hart would return to the 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia against another “spoiler” in Dashon “Fly Boy” Johnson, 19-18-3, of Escondido, CA, who had won his last four bouts, including reversing a loss to Mike Gavronski, then 20-1-1. Hart found himself hitting the canvas in the tenth and final round to the shock of the crowd and writers. He got up like a champion should and went onto win by scores of 98-91, 97-92 and 95-94. This was the kind of fight Hart needed to develop on his way to a championship fight.
Due to a hand injury suffered in his last bout Hart would be out of action for eight months before returning to the ring in Las Vegas to meet Andrew “Hurricane” Hernandez 16-4-1, at the Treasure Island Casino. Hernandez was on a six fight win streak including defeating Russian Arif “The Predator” Magomedov, 17-0, who two fights prior to this defeated Hart’s stablemate Derrick “Take It to The Bank” Webster, 19-0, even dropping him in the tenth round. Webster would move up to super middleweight after this fight obviously too light to be a middleweight at 6:04. Hart stopped Hernandez in the third round.
In April of 2017 Hart would defend his USBA and WBO NABO titles taking on Mexico’s Alan “Amenaza” Campa, 16-2, at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, MD. Hart went onto stop Campa in the fifth round. This win set up a world title fight with WBO World Super Middleweight champion Mexico’s southpaw Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez, 35-0 (24). The bout was held at the Convention Center in Tucson, AZ, in September of 2017. Ramirez’s promoter was also Top Rank.
Hart’s manager’s contract ran out prior to the title fight and he decided not to resign with Nowicki and Price. “I had nothing derogative to say about either Doc or Dave. I just wanted to be my own manager. I have a solid partner in Steven Andrews. He is a real good business partner of mine. He’s one who can plan my future for me,” said Hart. In talking with Steven Andrews you knew instantly he knows his boxing. “I have been with Jesse since he was sixteen years old. I have films that no one else has going back to those times in the amateurs. The Jesse you saw in the Ramirez fight was not the Jesse I know. Not having a tall southpaw like Webster to spar with hurt Jesse. He wouldn’t return our phone calls after committing himself and never showed up in camp. Jesse will be champ no matter whose holding the title,” said Andrews.
Hart was 22-0 with 18 stoppages. In the second round Hart was knocked down. At the end of the fight it would play a major part in the scoring. It was a close well fought battle with Ramirez retaining his title by scores of 114-113 and 115-112 twice. Hart wanted a rematch with Ramirez but he was told he would not be given one by the Ramirez management. Both fighters would return to the ring in February of 2018.
Hart came in at his highest weight of his career at 173¼ and it had some of us writers wondering if he was moving up to light heavyweight. His opponent would be Thomas “Awin” Awimbono, 25-7, of Accra, GH, living in the Bronx, NY, and weighing 179½ and a full fledge light heavyweight.
A year before Awinbono had gone the distance with Webster and unbeaten Caleb “Sweethands” Plant. Hart wasted no time in taking out Awimbono in 1:28 of the first round.
Just two months later Hart returned to the ring taking on Demond “D’bestatit” Nicholson, 18-2, from Laurel, MD. Among his opponents he fought to a draw with Immanuwel Aleem, then 16-0. Hart returned to a super middleweight 167½. It was held at the Liacouras Center of Temple University in Philadelphia for the vacant NABF title. Hart would stop Nicholson in the seventh round.
Hart is scheduled to fight on August 18th at the new Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, NJ, taking on the No. 11 WBA ranked Mike Gavronski, 24-2-1, in a NABF title defense with the hope of entering the WBA rankings.
KEN HISSNER: Going back to your amateur days I remember seeing you in New York’s China town with the USA Team against the Chinese team. You were very impressive in winning your bout but Fred Jenkins or your father were not in the corner. Why was that?
JESSE HART: They (USA Team) pick the team coach and my father and Fred were not part of that team.
KEN HISSNER: The most impressive boxer on the Chinese team was Fanlong Meng who is now 13-0 (8), as a light heavyweight. Remember seeing him?
JESSE HART: I sparred him and had no problem with him. I think he has to come to the US in order to develop.
KEN HISSNER: In the amateurs I also saw you in one of your two bouts defeating Derrick Webster in a Philly tournament. As professionals the two of you ended up under the same management. I once did an article that the two of you were on a collision course. He was 38-2 in the amateurs only losing to you twice. Since you left that management has a bout with Webster ever been offered to either of you?
JESSE HART: Yes. He was mentioned to me and I agreed to fight him in my fight in August but my promoter couldn’t get them to agree to the match. (In all fairness to Webster though it was not publicized at the time he is fighting August 11th in Philadelphia)
KEN HISSNER: When you were training for the Ramirez title bout was Webster one of the people being a southpaw you used for sparring?
JESSE HART: Derrick agreed to help me prepare for Ramirez but everyone in Top Rank and even myself left messages but he never returned any of our calls.
KEN HISSNER: How has it been working with Brad Goodman of Top Rank being he is matching your opponents for you?
JESSE HART: He’s done a great job with my career. He knows what fights to get me better for my career.
KEN HISSNER: Of your 25 fights you have only fought in Philadelphia 4 times. Do you wish to have fought at home more?
JESSE HART: Yeah, but no. I don’t want to get that home mentality. I enjoy fighting in other areas.
KEN HISSNER: I understand the Ramirez camp is not willing to give you a rematch though you are still the No. 1 contender in the WBO. He recently in June defended against an opponent who is no longer in their ratings. The WBA champ George Groves is defending against Callum “Mundo” Smith and like you neither for some reason are in the WBA rankings. Is there another one of the champions that you have your eye on fighting?
JESSE HART: I’m No. 3 in the WBC. I would like to fight (WBC champion) David Benavidez but I think he has another opponent.
KEN HISSNER: WBC champion David Benavidez has a September 8th defense planned but with no opponent mentioned at this time. Smith is ranked No. 1 and you are No. 3 in the WBC. With Smith fighting Groves and you fighting three weeks before that it’s certain neither of you will be getting that title shot. Was fighting Benavidez ever offered to you?
JESSE HART: Yes, Top Rank were about to sign him but when they didn’t it fell through.
KEN HISSNER: In your division two of the champions are from the UK and two from Mexico with one from the US. Your promoter Top Rank may be the one of or the best promoter in the world. Do you have much interaction with Bob Arum?
JESSE HART: I talk to him and is a friend of the family. I can go to him direct. I’ve sat down with him in his home.
KEN HISSNER: You have a very outgoing personality which I believe is a plus for your career. Besides your father have you had or now have any boxers you admire?
JESSE HART: “Sugar” Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali. Ali was one that I admired the way he handled himself. Sacrifice now while I am young in my training and everyday life and I can live the rest of my career as champion.
KEN HISSNER: In your upcoming fight with Mike Gavronski who is No. 11 in the WBA rankings have you seen any films of him?
JESSE HART: I’ve seen a couple of films with Hendricks and Johnson. If I shows any kind of weakness he will press forward.
KEN HISSNER: With a win over Gavronski you should get into the WBA rankings. With both Groves and Fielding as the WBA champions and from the UK would you be willing to go over there if the opportunity was offered to you?
JESSE HART: Absolutely I would love to go over there. I saw Errol Spence go over there. I don’t care where I fight him. I come to shut the man down that I fight!
KEN HISSNER: I want to take the time to thank you for taking the time to answer questions and with one more question are you going by “Hard Work” or “Hollywood?
JESSE HART: I changed from “Hard Work” to “Hollywood” prior to the Ramirez fight which was recommended to me to add more flair. So that is what I am keeping. I want to thank you Ken for doing this for me.