“Big Baby” Miller Signs With Top Rank Promotions
By: Sean Crose
Boxing fans can easily recall last June 1st, when Anthony Joshua stepped into the ring for his American debut at Madison Square Garden, only to be stunned by heavy underdog Andy Ruiz. Although Johsua has since won back the title belts he lost that evening, few will forget the time Ruiz stunned the world. Such things stick in the memory. What may not stick in the memory is the fact that Ruiz wasn’t even supposed to be Joshua’s opponent that night. Brooklyn’s Gerald “Big Baby” Miller the man who had been scheduled to welcome Joshua to America that evening in the Garden. Positive drug tests, however, kept Miller from the fight. The opportunity ended up going to Ruiz.
Now, however, it appears that the 23-0-1 Miller is back on the heavyweight fast track, for it was announced Wednesday that the 31 year old had signed with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions. “Jarrell Miller is serious about coming back, doing things the right way and becoming heavyweight champion of the world,” said Arum via press release. “He is one of boxing’s most unique and exciting characters, but most importantly, he can fight.” Signing with Arum can open up new doors for Miller. Tyson Fury, the man who many consider to the be the lineal heavyweight champion of the world (the man who beat the man, who beat the man) fights with Top Rank. What’s more, Top Rank fighters are able to fight live in front of ESPNs massive audience.
“Minor setback for a major comeback,” Miller said, referring to the positive drug tests that kept him from facing Joshua. “I’m coming for everything and everyone. No one is safe. Say hello to the bad guy.” It was clear the undefeated heavyweight wanted to stake his claim among the colorful characters that now populate the heavyweight division. “Everyone wants to portray the superhero,” he added. “We don’t live in a sunshine world. I’ll never be the superhero. In my world, the majority of the time, the villain wins.”
Top Rank’s press release referred to Miller as “one of boxing’s most polarizing figures, a combination-punching heavyweight who also went 22-2 as a professional kickboxer.” Having once been one of the highest paid kickboxers in the United States, Miller still has his eyes set on heavyweight dominance. He also now has the backing to get him the kinds of fights that can make that happen.
“I couldn’t be happier that after months of hard work and perseverance, we were able to make this deal a reality,” said Greg Cohen, who now co-promotes Miller, along with Top Rank and Dmitriy Salita. “Since I started promoting Jarrell as a six-round fighter,” said Salita. “I have been saying that he would be the next heavyweight champion from Brooklyn. Working with Top Rank, I am confident he will have the chance to realize that goal.”
“Time,” said Cohen, “for Big Baby to get back in the ring!”
Top Rank stated Miller “will make his Top Rank on ESPN debut in 2020.”
“Big Baby” Miller: “I’m Not Perfect”
By: Sean Crose
Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, the 23-0-1 heavyweight contender who was supposed to face Anthony Joshua on the night the heavyweight kingpin lost his titles to Andy Ruiz, has finally spoken out. As was reported by Boxing Insider at the time of the Joshua fight falling through:
“The Joshua fight fell apart after it was revealed that Miller essentially failed a March 20th drug test from the Voluntary Anti Doping Agency (VADA) and the New York State Athletic Commission subsequently refused to license the 23-0-1 fighter. The drug found in Miller’s system was a weight loss substance known as GW1516. It was then revealed that Miller again tested positive for GW1516 on March 31st. On that same day Miller also tested positive for a strength building human growth hormone known as EPO. Both GW1516 and EPO are banned substances.”
Miller was subsequently suspended by the WBA for six months. In a recently published interview with Cyntha Conte, the Brooklyn native opens up in depth for what appears to the first time since testing positive. “They don’t make you stronger,” Miller says of the substances found in his system. “They don’t make you explosive.” Although not outright declaring his total innocence, Miller states in the interview that there’s “a little bit of a gray area” regarding the matter. Still, the fighter is quick to add that “we’re not making excuses.”
Miller also admits that promoter Eddie Hearn, the force behind the failed “Joshua-Miller” fight, appears deeply displeased with what transpired. “I still have not had a conversation with Eddie Hearn to this day,” says Miller in the video. “Eddie’s still mad. I get it.” Yet Miller also argues he’s “got nothing to apologize to AJ (Joshua) for.” Miller later expressed his displeasure at Joshua’s reactions to the tests which derailed their fight. “He’s still a prick in my book,” Miller claims of the former titlist.
Although he says he’s taking the fact that his lost opportunity was Ruiz’ gain in stride, Miller still indicates in the video that Ruiz’ shocking win surprised him. “I knew Andy was going to beat him (Joshua) up a little bit,” he says, “but I didn’t know Andy was going to whoop his ass that way.” Ruiz’ big win, however, wasn’t entirely easy for Miller to swallow. “My first reaction ‘was damn son, that could have been me’,” Miller states, before adding “but my boy won, so be happy, because jealousy breeds hate and were not going to do that around here.”
“I’m not perfect,” Miller states in the interview with Conte, “nobody’s perfect.”
Big Baby Miller Feels He Has “To Beat A Brit,” To Get To Joshua
By: Sean Crose
“I have to beat a Brit,” says undefeated heavyweight Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, “if I do that, a lot will change.” Miller, who will be facing Bogdan Dinu on November 17th in Kansas, is looking to land a match against heavyweight kingpin Anthony Joshua, who is now a huge star in England.” When you are high risk, low reward,” says Miller, “people will make excuses not to fight you and the fans will buy into it.” Joshua, who can sell out stadiums in Britain, has a line of potential opponents hungry to face him, among them American standout Deontay Wilder.
As Matchroom Boxing, which is affiliated with Miller, states: “Anthony Joshua returns to Wembley Stadium in London on April 13 to put his IBF, WBA and WBO straps on the line.” Miller would love the chance to face Joshua, of course, but understands that fight may not happen – at least not on that date. And so Miller is not afraid to set his sights on other foes. “I am not afraid of Dillian,” Miller says of another potential Joshua oppoenent, Dilian Whyte. “I’m afraid of no man. If AJ is not ready to face me with a title, then I’ll go and whoop Dillian’s butt. It’ll help my profile in Britain.”
“He’s a clown,” Miller says of Whyte, who has already lost to Joshua once before. “Nobody is afraid of him. He’s got a win over Lucas Browne and that’s it. For him to call people punks, he’s deluded, I’ve fought three World title contenders back to back. He turned down Mariusz Wach twice and he didn’t really want to fight Duhaupas, he’s naive.” Miller is clearly a student of the fight game. ““The big fights take some maneuvering and finessing,” he says, “so building my profile, winning the regular title and getting into a mandatory spot is going to help me in that situation.”
“I think I will definitely be in a spot to have an AJ or Deontay Wilder fight later in the year,” he says, “so I need to get this win in Kansas and stay busy, focused, injury free and ready.” Miller knows it would be unwise to overlook Dinu, an 18-0 Romanian, with 14 knockouts on his resume. “Bogdan is aggressive,” the 20-0-1 Brooklyn natives says, “but that’s against guys that want to survive…he’s going to try to move against me, everybody does, but then they all end up running for their lives – and they can only run for so long.”
Miller, who has won all but two of his bouts by knockout, will be one of the highlights of Saturday’s card at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas. Claressa Shields will also be fighting, as will Brandon Rios. DAZN will be airing the festivities live starting at 10 PM Eastern Standard Time.
Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller: More Than Meets The Eye
By: Sean Crose
“As of now, it’s all talk,” Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller tells me. Miller is discussing rumors that have been circulating, rumors which claim he will soon step in between the ropes to face heavyweight kingpin Anthony Joshua, in what will perhaps be Joshua’s first fight in the United States. Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, was connected to Miller for a time, which led to the assertion that a Joshua fight would happen. “Eddie Hearn is a great talker,” Miller continues. “You guys in the media suck it up.” Miller intends to keep moving along with his career. So long as he keeps winning, it will be hard for the biggest names to deny him a shot at some point. “I’m not going to sit around and twiddle my thumbs,” he says.
Photo Credit: Jarrell Miller’s Twitter Account
Boxing can be a frustrating game, of course, but Miller has things to be happy about. For starters, he’s one of the more popular heavyweights in a division that’s become red hot after a long dormant stage. He did, after all, just beat France’s Johann Duhaupas via unanimous decision. “I was always trying to press for a knockout,” he says. “I’m a big guy, but I’ve got fluidity.” And for those who questioned whether he would really enter the ring weighing three hundred pounds? “This time I really was three hundred,” he tells me. And those who feel Miller can’t beat men like Joshua or fellow American Deontay Wilder? The guy couldn’t care less.
Miller is a man whose clearly comfortable with who he is. Formerly the highest paid kickboxer in America (kickboxing still remains close to his heart) the rising boxer realizes he’s “a high risk, low reward fighter.” Still, Miller makes one thing clear: “I know what my goals are.” And those goals have everything to do with making it to the top of the heavyweight heap. Cable giant Home Box Office is happy to be in the Miller business, having aired his last several fights live. “Everything seems good,” he says. “They just treated me with more respect.”
Treating people right is important for the 21-0-1 Brooklyn native. He’s known to work with children, after all, and was taking his seven year old son to the movies while we spoke. Miller is also known for supporting and befriending cancer patient Lily Weaver. Such relationships make for good press, but the friendship is legitimate in this case. “She inspires me,” he states, explaining that when he isn’t feeling as ambitious as he’d like, thinking of Hannah acts as motivation. “If we’re not here on this earth for each other,” he adds, “then what are we here for?”
“Fighter’s get a bad rap,” he says. “We’re just guys trying to make a living.”
OLD SCHOOL: An Interview with Big Baby Miller’s Trainer, Harry Keitt
By: Patrick Mascoe
Boxing is a complex sport. Those of uswho love boxing love the action in the ring, and we often see the sport as a metaphor for life. Life is a struggle, a fight and for those who give up, success is never attained. Boxing has a history of wasted talent, crushed dreams and fighters who self-destruct. However, it also has a history of salvation and redemption. The life of veteran Brooklyn trainer Harry Keitt is such a story. Once a promising fighter, and a man who had sparred with the likes of Light Heavyweight Champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi and the great Muhammad Ali, Keitt soon found his life spiralling out of control.
Harry Keitt began using drugs and, at his lowest point, shot his own cousin. After serving his time in prison, he rededicated his life to helping the young people of his community. He wanted to make sure that they did not make some of the same mistakes that have haunted him. He has spent close to 30 years making up for that one error in judgement. In that time, he has become a man who has taken on the job of trainer, mentor and surrogate father to many in his Brooklyn neighbourhood. He has become a respected individual due to his strength of character, his wisdom, and more importantly, he now possesses self-worth and dignity.
How long have you actively been involved in the sport of boxing?
“I myself boxed for ten years from 1976 to 1986. In 1989, I became a trainer and have been involved in training fighters ever since.”
In that time, what major changes have you seen in sport with regards to match-making and training?
“Back in the day, if a champion lost a fight he would get an immediate rematch. He would be ranked as the number one contender. Now, if you lose, you may not even find yourself in the top ten. Boxing trainers are being replaced by strength and conditioning coaches. I get that everybody is trying to make a living, but everything is really upside down. These guys don’t really know boxing. Lots of guys today are using drugs to get stronger or faster. People are looking for an easy way to succeed.”
You have literally trained hundreds of fighters in your time. Do you have any favorites?
“I trained a young boy named Mark Anene. He came into the gym when he was ten years old weighing 170 lbs. When I asked him why he was crying all the time, he told me he was being picked on and laughed at. I told him that if you stick with boxing, the bullying would stop. That boy’s weight dropped to 156 lbs. and he became a Jr. National Champion, a Golden Gloves Champion, and a Jr. World Champion. Through boxing, he was able to achieve everything he wanted. He also became like a son to me. His goal was never to fight pro but rather to graduate high school and get a college degree. I attended his graduation and we are still in touch to this day. I also trained, well known contender, John Duddy (29-2), who may not have been the most skilled of fighters, but was so hard working and determined; he could have been a world champion. He is now a successful actor and doing very well. When training an amateur like Mark, or a professional like John, it was never about the money. It was always about training them right.”
Which fighters today impress you and have your attention?
“To be honest, fighters today aren’t the same. Most are looking for short cuts. The fighters of today lack hunger and don’t have a strong work ethic. Guys come in and they want to copy Floyd Mayweather’s style or Sugar Ray Leonard’s style. They don’t understand that you need to learn the basics and then find your own style. Guys like Mayweather and Leonard are gifted fighters. You have to develop your own style and that comes through training, not by copying another guy. I do like Deontay Wilder because I know that he is being trained the right way. His trainer, Mark Breland, is teaching him to have strong fundamentals and has instilled in him a strong work ethic. Breland, himself, was a great fighter and understands there are no short cuts to success. People keep predicting that Deontay is going to lose yet, he just keeps winning.”
In the eyes of many of the young men and women you train, you are seen as a surrogate father, a mentor, an advisor, and a teacher. What is the most important lesson to try to impart on these young people?
“I want them to learn to carry themselves with confidence. Kids need to develop self-confidence in order to succeed in life. The minute you think you can’t do something, then you have failed already.”
Knowing that not every person you train will turn professional or make a living as a boxer, how to you define your success as a trainer?
“I would love to see one of my fighters win a world title. That’s how I would define my personal success. But I think people need to be champions to themselves. As I said before, I trained Mark Anene and he was very successful. He graduated high school and college. He accomplished his dream. Knowing what his goal was, I often checked his report cards to make sure he stayed on track. Boxing was a path that he used to succeed. I want people to learn to believe in themselves.”
You are presently training undefeated heavyweight Jarrell Miller. He is currently ranked 9th in the world by Ring magazine. What is it like to work with Jarrell and how far do you think he can go?
“Jarrell can go as far as he wants. He can be a world champion. At times we have our ups and downs. As a trainer, I always want my fighters to train harder. I am old school. Young guys see me and they laugh because I don’t know much about Facebook or Twitter, but I know boxing. In the gym, I tell them I know what you know, but you don’t know what I know. Young guys get on the treadmill and run, but to me the treadmill is doing all the work. It is not the same. Go out and do your own roadwork. Guys need to work harder.”
Your personal story is one of redemption. Are you happy today with the path your life has taken?
“I feel great about myself. For a while, I was headed in the wrong direction and I was doing all the wrong things. When I came out of prison, I told myself that I would never go back. I needed to start doing the right thing. My life has been good. I was involved in a documentary movie in 1999, called On the Ropes, and it was nominated for an Oscar. I got the chance to attend the Academy Awards. My life has definitely gone in the other direction, a better direction.”
Harry Keitt presently works out of Mendez gym at 23 E. 26th Street in Manhattan, New York and trains undefeated heavyweight prospect Jarrell Miller. Miller’s next fight will be on April 28th at the Barclays Center on the under card of the Daniel Jacobs – Maceiej Sulecki fight. Harry Keitt readily acknowledges that he is an old school trainer. To him, that means teaching fighters to develop strong work ethics in order to become fundamentally sound. In a day and age when we sometimes see old as being passé, Harry Keitt is anything but. Honest, caring and knowledgeable trainers should be the norm, not the exception. He continues to preach to his young disciples – you need to be a champion to yourself. Although he may still possess some regrets about his earlier life, Harry Keitt has worked selflessly with the young people of Brooklyn and in return, he himself has become a champion.
Omar Figueroa Has a Face That Lies
Omar Figueroa has a Face That Lies
by B.A. Cass
In December of 2012, Golden Boy Promotions called up Omar Figueroa Jr.’s dad to say they had a fight for his son. After his dad got off the phone, he came up to Figueroa Jr. and said, “Guess what?” He looked scared, genuinely scared. “Guess who they want you to fight?”
“Who?” Figueroa Jr. said.
“Remember that kid I told you about?”
Figueroa Jr. remembered all right, mainly because his dad was constantly talking up Michael Perez, the Puerto Rican prospect. He liked the way Perez fought and wished his son could fight more like that. On occasion, he would even compare Perez’s artistry in the ring to Michelangelo.
“So what do you think?” his dad said.
“What do you mean, ‘what do I think’?”
“Well, would you fight him?
“Why the hell not?”
“I believe you can,” his dad told him.“But that’s a tough fight. You haven’t really been training.”
Technically, Figueroa had been training. But he had just celebrated his 23rdbirthday, and he was also going out at night and having a goodtime. Figueroa’s dad, who was his trainer at the time, believed in his son’s abilities but was concerned about his conditioning. Add on to this the fact that the proposed fight with Perez was slated for January 6th, only several weeks away.
“Let’s take it,” Figueroa Jr. said. It sounded like a bad ass fight to him.
So Omar Figueroa Sr. called Golden Boy back and then he reached out to Perez’s camp, who used an intermediary to make sure that Figueroa Jr. knew who he was going up against. “They want to make sure that you’re sure about taking the fight,” the intermediary said. “Does Omar know who Perez is?”
The answer was obvious. After all, as Figueroa Jr. says now, “I knew because my dad had been on his nut for the past year.”
“Well, you know, they just want to make sure you knew who he was. They figured you took the fight because you weren’t sure who he was.”
That’s when his father realized the Perez team was just fucking with them. And once the fight was arranged, he said to his son, “Alright, now you got to kick his ass.”
“Yeah, I know,” Figueroa Jr. said. “I’m gonna fuck him up.”
Long before the fight with Perez, Figueroa Jr. had been looking for a place to train because he and his dad weren’t getting along at all. That’s how Joel Diaz came into the picture. Golden Boy Promotions showed Diaz a video of one of Figueroa Jr.’s fights and asked if he would help prepare him. At that time, Diaz was training a couple of young kids who were tough professional fighters. And when he saw those videos of Figueroa Jr., Diaz recalls thinking, “Eh, any of my boys will beat him. I don’t see anything special about him.” But he agreed to meet with them anyway.
And so, two days before Christmas, father and son traveled from Weslaco, their small Texas town on the border of Mexico, and joined Joel Diaz at his training camp in Indio, California. “I’ll never forget it because I still talk about it today,” recalls Diaz. “He came to the gym, and I started working with him. Wow, was I wrong. He has a style that really works for him. He’s very explosive; he has a lot of power, he can hit. From that point on, I was like, OK, I can work with him.” Diaz prepared Figueroa Jr. for a tough fight against Perez, which to the surprise of many he won when Perez’s corner threw in the towel after the 6th round.
According to Diaz, his relationship Figueroa Jr. got better every time, every fight. But in 2014, Figueroa Jr. decided to resume training in Texas with his dad so he could live close to family. A lot has been made of that decision and even more has been made of his year and a half hiatus from the sport. After all, it’s uncommon for such a young fighter to take so much time off. But it wasn’t simply the injuries that forced him to take a break. “I’d been dragging,” Figueroa explains. “It got to the point where I was kind of annoyed. I was starting to dislike what I was doing. I attribute that to the injuries I was having because they weren’t letting me enjoy my job. I mean not being able to train, missing weight, knowing that I wasn’t a hundred percent going into the ring with these guys, it weighed heavily on me. Mentally I was in a very bad place.”
Omar Figueroa Jr.’s last professional fight occurred in 2015 when he faced Antonio Demarco, a fight he won by unanimous decision. For much of the fight, Figueroa overwhelmed his opponent. In the first two rounds alone, Figueroa Jr. threw close to 300 punches. And it took until the end of the 3rd round for DeMarco to finally let his hands go. That’s when he caught Figueroa Jr. with a solid right hook. Figueroa Jr. stepped back and, before coming back in with his left hand, he paused a moment and smiled. We all know boxers taunt each other with their smiles, often using their smile to cover up the fact that a punch has landed and they’ve been hurt. But Figueroa Jr.’s smile wasn’t like that. His smile seemed remarkably innocent, like he was happy, if not just a bit surprised, that a real fight was starting up. Here was a young man who looked like he was having fun.
Figueroa Jr. makes his long-anticipated return to the ring this Saturday in a fight against Robert Guerrero at the Nassau Coliseum in Unionville, Long Island. Guerrero’s been dismissed by many as a fading fighter clearly past his prime, a fighter who has lost four out of his last six fights. Still, Figueroa isn’t taking him for granted and is prepared for a hard ten rounds. “Knowing I’m getting into the ring with someone like Guerrero, it brings the nerves back, a little bit, being out so long,” Figueroa says. “And I know it’s not an easy fight at all. It brings the nerves back, and I miss that feeling.”
Figueroa Jr. might strike some as being too polite to be a fighter—and perhaps a bit too nice looking. Joel Diaz, who has again come on board as his trainer, is the first to admit that his champion has a baby face. “You see the face of Omar Figueroa and you don’t think he has the heart that he has. His face is not suitable for his heart. It’s very deceptive. But he’s never been dropped. The more you hit him, the more he’s on you.” Anyone who has seen Figueroa Jr. fight knows that this is true.
Can we expect to see anything different from Figueroa Jr? Aside from feeling healthy, strong, and rested, Diaz doesn’t think so. “Omar’s never going to change,” Diaz says. “He’s never going to change his style of fighting. His strategy’s never going to change. He’s always going to be the same.” However, Figueroa Jr. believes his time away from boxing has matured him as a fighter. And Diaz admits he’s been working with Figueroa to improve his defense, so we perhaps we’ll get a glimpse of a smarter Figueroa Jr. on Saturday night.
The Figueroa Jr. vs. Guerrero fight might not be the match up of the year, but it will be fun to watch.As Diaz says, “Styles makes fights.” And the style of both these fights is not going to leave room for a lot of space. Diaz doesn’t expecteitherfighter to go back. “They’re both going to be in the ring and crash on the inside,” he says. “They’ll exchange in the middle of the ring from the beginning bell to the end.”
Overweight Jacobs Should Fess Up and Quit Crying After Loss!
Overweight Jacobs Should Fess Up and Quit Crying After Loss!
By: Ken Hissner
On March 17th Gennady “GGG’ Golovkin, 36-0 (33), got on the scale and it was 159¾ while Danny “Miracle Man” Jacobs, 32-1 (29), stepped on the same scale and it was 159½.
Golovkin was defending his WBA, WBC and IBF titles while Jacobs was the WBA World champion. The following day Jacobs failed to show up and meet the IBF rules of a day of the fight weigh-in to keep the weight differences at a maximum ten pounds. Golovkin got on the scales and it was 170 pounds. If Jacobs got up the day of the weigh-in and was 180 pounds he would still have a ten pound advantage in the fight. He obviously was over 180 and possibly as much as 185 and forfeited fighting for the IBF title and possibly having the entire fight cancelled. You know Jacobs got on a scale Saturday morning in order to decide not to show up for a second weigh-in or he would not have skipped Saturday’s weigh-in.
The fight itself lived up to the hype and then some. Jacobs fought well above what was expected which may have given a false opinion for many. In the fourth round Jacobs went down which can be considered the difference of winning and losing at the end.
Judge Max DeLuca scored it 114-113 while judges Don Trella and Steve Weisfeld scored it 115-112 as did this writer. DeLuca gave both fighters 6 rounds each while Trella and Weisfeld 7 rounds to Golovkin and 5 to Jacobs. Though listed as having a 1” advantage in height Golovkin had to look up to Jacobs who obviously had at least a 3” advantage in height.
The way the scoring broke down was as the following:
Golovkin took rounds 1, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9. Jacobs rounds 2, 6, 7, 10, 11 and 12. Each fighter took 6 rounds apiece but the fourth round was the difference when Golovkin scored the lone knockdown of the fight to take a 10-8 round. Four of the twelve rounds were 2-1 to the winner. Those were Golovkin in the third, Jacobs in the second, seventh and twelfth rounds.
Golovkin keeps his WBA, WBC and IBF titles and improves to 37-0 with 33 knockouts. He is 34. Jacobs drops to 32-2 with 29 knockouts. He is 30. Golovkin made 17 WBA super world defenses, 3 IBF defenses and 1 WBC defense while Jacobs made 4 defenses. Golovkin has been a professional for 11 years and Jacobs 10 years.
Golovkin’s manager Tom Loeffler stated the next defense will be in June in KAZ. Their hope is WBO champion southpaw Billy Joe Saunders, 24-0 (12), from the UK with 1 defense will back up his mouth and put his signature on a contract with all 4 titles on the line.
Golovkin has a tentative September date with WBC super welterweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, 48-1-1 (34), who must defeat Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., 50-2-1 (32), on May 6th with a 164½ weight limit. Alvarez has 7 defenses. He has never weighed more than 155 pounds.
Chavez was WBC World middleweight champion and had 3 defenses. His last 5 fights have been at super middleweight with a 172½ high. In his last fight in December of 2016 he came in at 168.
Was “Baby” Joe Mesi’s Career Sabotaged?
Was “Baby” Joe Mesi’s Career Sabotaged?
By: Ken Hissner
It’s been going on ten years since unbeaten heavyweight “Baby” Joe Mesi who was called one of Buffalo’s three franchises. He was 36-0 with 29 knockouts from 1997 to 2007. There were more than a handful of these victories he wasn’t supposed to win but did. Names like “Smokin” Bert Cooper who had 30 KO’s in his 35 wins was dropped twice and turned his back on Mesi in the seventh to end it. Followed by David Izon, 27-4, DaVarryl “Touch of Sleep” Williamson, 18-1, Monte “Two Gunz” Barrett, 29-2, Jorge Luis Gonzalez, 31-6, Keith McKnight, 41-3 and former IBF cruiser weight champion Vassiliy “The Tiger” Jirov, 33-1, are some that come to mind. The big Cuban Gonzalez in the amateurs defeated Riddick Bowe and split in two bouts with Lennox Lewis.
After Mesi’s victory over Jirov he went home and a few days later he had headaches and went to a neurologist. He was diagnosed with a head injury. He would eventually be banned from such states as Nevada and his home state of New York where he had fought fourteen times. He was winning the fight and got hit while in a crouch behind the head and knocked down in the ninth round with seconds to go. It was an unintentional foul. Referee Jay Nady could have called a halt at that time and go to the scorecards but he didn’t even take a point from him. In the tenth round Mesi was obviously still hurt and got knocked down with two minutes to go in the round and once more before the fight ended. HBO judge Harold Lederman had Mesi ahead by one point as did all three judges 94-93. He was then inactive for twenty-five months after the Jirov fight. He was the No. 1 contender in the WBC and WBA rankings.
An MRI showed Mesi to have at least one Subdural Hematoma’s. Mesi presented evidence that he never actually sustained any internal brain bleeding to the Nevada Commission, but they ignored it and suspended him. The suspension effectively blacklisted him from boxing anywhere in the US under the premise of the full faith and credit clause. He launched several very expensive ineffective lawsuits against parties they claimed that ‘leaked’ news of his health, while also appealing to Nevada representatives that he should be allowed to box. The suspension was officially lifted when Mesi’s Nevada boxing license was expired at the end of 2005.
The NYSAC doctor Barry Jordan disregarded HIPPA regulations and leaked this to commentator Teddy Atlas who started the whole thing over the air saying that Mesi was damaged and accused the management, Spagnola and Jack Messi wanting to cash him out one last time saying “Senator McCain don’t let them kill him”. Writer Tom Hauser wrote it up that way. Neither had any right to do so without all the facts. Atlas even referred to Mesi as a “some say rated heavyweight”. There was no questioning Mesi after the fight.
Several days later he was suffering from headaches and went to a neurologist who looked for advice and contacted the NYSAC doctor Barry Jordan who years earlier sat through the fight that Beethaeven Scottland had been beaten to death. That was in a bout with George Khalid Jones on June 26th, 2001, and died on July 1st, 2001.
Spagnola had this to say: We didn’t even have a diagnosis and they were burying us for not releasing info, demanded all our Medicaid and we resisted, trying to get a handle on the medical ramifications before sharing our plight with the world. The publicity was damming, no one would give us a chance with NYC media all over us. We were very lucky to contact Dr. Robert Cantu, a real neurosurgeon, not a fraud like the NYAC doctor who would have people looking and ink splashes or hitting them in the knee to test coordination and reaction. Cantu was a world renowned surgeon who operated on brains, cracked open skulls to heal people and he had a CV over 12 pages long He was a brilliant physician specializing in sports related brain injuries. Cantu is stationed in Concord, MASS, and he is a senior advisor to the NFL Head, Neck and Spinal Committee.
The first MRI we got showed a very slight Subdural Hematoma, the second one they couldn’t even find it. In the third the slight had moved below its original spot which they claimed was another Subdural but Dr. Cantu explained the first spot had moved slightly as it was in the process of disintegrating, they claimed it was a second bleed. Dr. Cantu stated at our hearing in Las Vegas that Joe Mesi’s injury was on a scale of 1-100, meaning it was ½ of 1, which would self-heal like any other bruise type injury in a matter of weeks, no operation, no surgery just rest and natural healing within his body. But Nevada honcho Keith Kizer would have none of it. Mesi presented several world renowned neurosurgeons who were very convincing on his behalf. Nevada countered with two doctors on their board, Doctors Edwin “Flip” Homansky and Margret Goodman.
After the testimony which interestingly pointed out Mesi’s injury was in the middle of the back of his head, total proof that the blow that felled Mesi was to the back of his head, obvious on the TV replay but referee Jay Nady, rather than going to the score cards as a result of the unintentional foul by Jirov demanded Mesi go out for the final round, obviously concussed to be beaten all over the ring, nearly helpless. Mesi had dominated the world class Jirov so badly over the first 8 2/3 rounds that even the beating and knockdowns as a result of the foul could not overcome the margin and Mesi won the unanimous decision. Nady told Spagnola, “Joe twisted into the punch and I said guys twist and turn all the time if their heads clashed and one was badly busted up that is an unintentional foul, case closed.” The Nevada doctors checked Mesi after the bout and cleared him with no special follow-up. They never took responsibility for misdiagnosing him. Field Marshall Keith Kizer never accepted any responsibility for any of their shortcomings or mistakes just dug into the company line.
After a hearing with the Nevada Commissioners they asked Mesi point blank, saying they had only one question for Mesi before they voted. I think his name was Miller, he said “Joe you have presented an incredible array of high end medical talent at this hearing to speak on your behalf, my question is how many of these doctors have asked you to sign a disclaimer, hold harmless agreement with them in case you are allowed to fight again?” Mesi answered brilliantly and honestly “that’s a great question sir as we know doctors and lawyers must be the two most non-committal professions, but in answer to your question, not a single one.” Pennsylvania Boxing Director then President of the ABC Commission, presented a training secession at an ABC annual conference, “what to do if Joe Mesi tries to come to your state”.
However, Mesi was unable to renew his license in Nevada due to concerns of the Nevada Boxing officials. Mesi was licensed by the Puerto Rico Boxing Commission in February 2006, the Louisiana State Boxing Commission in June of 2006, the Arkansas Boxing Commission in August of 2006, the Michigan State Boxing Commission in September, 2006, the West Virginia State Boxing Commission in February of 2007, and the Rhode Island State Boxing Commission in October of 2007.
Mesi returned to the ring on April Fool’s Day in 2006. The bout was in Guaynabo, PR, where he won an eight round decision over Ronald Bellamy, 14-4-4. He next fought in June in Canada winning a six round decision. In August he scored a second round stoppage in Russellville, ARK. In September he won a four round decision in Manistee, MI. In February and April of 2007 he scored first round stoppages in Chester, WV and back again to ARK. In WV he knocked George Linberger, 29-8-1 down twice before referee called a halt. Linberger never fought again.
His final bout was in October of 2007 in Lincoln, RI, scoring his third consecutive first round stoppage over Shannon Miller, 15-3, dropping him twice winning the USNBC title. Miller was on the canvas for over five minutes. That’s seven straight wins after being suspended in New York. The only other title he won was the NABF title when he stopped Robert Davis, 28-5, in Buffalo in June of 2003.
Mesi’s having seven boxing matches after taking off to rest for twenty-five months should prove he could fight again but couldn’t get re-instated in major states.
Mesi didn’t start boxing until he was 19. In 1996 he want all the way to the finals of the Olympic Trials before losing to Lawrence Clay-Bey. On November 11th, 1997 he turned professional at the Apollo Theater in New York City scoring a first round knockout over Dwane Cason Allen, 1-1. He had three wins in 1997 followed by seven in 1998, five in 1999, down to just two in 2000, three each in 2001 and 2002, four in 2003, and only the Jirov fight in 2004.
On February 14th, 2008 Mesi publicly expressed he wanted to run for the NY state senate. He attempted to fill the seat of the 61st District vacated by Mary Lou Rath. He won the Democratic primary for the seat on September 9th, 2008. He lost the general election to Republican Michael Ranzenhofer.