An Interview with Baby Joe Mesi
06.11.03 - By Paul Ruby: World-class boxers inevitably fall into one of two categories—good guys and bad guys. There are the guys you love to pull for, and the guys you love to hate. Recently ranked as the number 8 contender by the WBC, Joe Mesi certainly is one of young fighters about whom fight fans get excited—he’s one of the good guys. Joe is a good athlete and talented boxer who obviously takes a great deal of pride in his craft. He is confident in his skills, but he is not cocky and does not flaunt his success.
Article posted on 06.11.2003
Joe Mesi is unique in boxing today because fans are able to relate to him. He hails from a family and region that have undying support for him and he will always do his best to exceed their lofty expectations. The fact that Joe Mesi is such a talented fighter inside the ring and such a gentleman outside of it says something important about him—he’s a very intelligent guy. In and out of the ring, he is calculating and always in control. His skills inside the ring and temperament outside of it are the formula for a long and successful career in boxing and a happy, healthy life when his fighting days are over. In the interview that follows, I gained a great deal of respect for Joe because he constantly and unintentionally illustrates that he is handling his career, skills, and life with pride and care. I started this interview thinking Joe was a good boxer and a very nice guy who had a shot to become a champion. After we hung up the phone, I am convinced that he is a talented, mature athlete who will live up to every bit of potential he possesses.
1. Eastside Boxing: How is training coming for your December 6 fight with Monte Barrett and what sort of regimen are you on these days?
Joe Mesi: Great. Training is going great because I never really stopped training. When my last fight ended quickly, I thought to myself “hey, why not try to get another one in before the end of the year.” We worked with HBO, and it’s going well. Training is great. We do heavy sparring 3 times a week, road work; I work with my strength coach four times a week. It’s three workouts a day, and that’s what I’m known for. I work very hard; very disciplined. In all, it a four-and-a-half to five hour a day commitment.
2. ESB: You’ve had a great deal of success in your recent fights, have you changed anything?
JM: No, I haven’t really changed my training style. I’ve studied tape, worked with sparring partners. My trainer, Juan DeLeon and his brother Carlos “Sugar” DeLeon, former cruiserweight champion of the world, are the best- they know what they’re doing and I have a lot of faith in them.
3. ESB: Rocky Marciano, one of your idols in boxing, is quoted as saying “Why waltz with a guy for 10 rounds if you can knock him out in 1.” What do you have to say about that quote, and about Rocky in general?
JM: I’ve watched a lot of footage of Rocky. I wouldn’t say we emulate each other inside the ring. People say we’re similar because we both have a lot of 1st round knockouts, but I don’t want to come off as Tyson-like. Stylistically, we’re different. But, I agree with his statement. Guys go down when you see an opening. Take advantage if it’s there, but I’m not afraid to go the distance. I’m in shape, and maybe this fight it will go longer.
4. ESB: You mentioned you trainer Juan DeLeon, could talk about him, your father Jack, and the rest of Team Mesi, and how they’ve impacted your career, your training, and your time in between fights?
JM: The reason for my success is my team. They’re impeccable. My father watches over me financially. He managed over my amateur career and got me to the doorstep of the Olympics, as a professional I’m undefeated. He’s a marketing genius, and it will be a couple of more fights until he’s recognized as ‘Manager of the Year.’ My cousin, Julie, is my lawyer and she’s won some important cases for us. I have a great team around me, everything makes sense, and there’s no reason for me not to be fighting for a title soon.
5. ESB: Your fan base in Western New York is very loyal. Where do you think that support comes from?
JM: We’re huge sports fan here. In Buffalo, we’ve got the Bills and the Sabres—teams that have come so close to winning it all so many times, but just haven’t ever done it. People here are loyal and support their teams. Boxing was huge in Buffalo in the 40’s and 50’s, and then it died out. We revived support for it. People like me; they relate to me. I was born here, raised here, and educated here. I communicate with people, I do community service and events. We relate to each other and the community fits into place.
6. ESB: What are you short- and long-term goals?
JM: I just achieved one and that was to break into the Top 10. The WBC just ranked me at 8 and I had bee 11 before and we’re waiting on the new WBA rankings. I want to beat top 10 or 15 guys. Make a name for myself. Reach the HBO level which I’ve already done. We just signed a three fight deal with them, provided I win my fights. Long term, is to be heavyweight champion.
ESB: Any legacy?
JM: No. I’m not trying to become a legend. If that happens, well… I’m not trying to be the best ever; just the best I can be. I’ve taken criticism and my father’s taken criticism from a newspaper—one newspaper in particular here in Buffalo—saying that my career’s moved too slow, but I tell people that I started at 21 and was on the doorstep of the Olympics in two and a half years. I was in way over my head, but I was there. As a professional, I’ve moved at a nice slow pace. A pace that’s good for myself. But, I think I’m good for the sport. I’m happy to help a sport that has sort of a bad name right now, but I’m not trying to become Muhammad Ali or anything.
7. ESB: You obviously done very well in your last few fights. In each one, you’ve had detractors saying ‘oh, this will be the one where he stumbles.’ Yet, each time you’ve come through with flying colors. What have you learned in your recent fights? Against David Izon, who’s been in with David Tua, Fres Oquendo, Michael Grant, and Lou Savarese?
JM: I learned that I do have stamina. I do have patience. I don’t have to knock everyone out in a round or two. I can stay calm and relaxed. I’m prepared and eventually I’ll wear you out, but I won every round and I was prepared to win a decision.
ESB: Your fights against Williamson and Davis ended quickly.
JM: Look for an opening. I’m a big advocate of studying tape. I took advantage of openings. Maybe I didn’t respect their chins as much as I should have, but I knew what to look for, and I took advantage.
8. ESB: We know you’ll fight whomever your father puts in front of you, but in a world where you make your own fights regardless of politics and networks, what would the next two years hold for Baby Joe Mesi?
JM: Obviously, I want to win a world title. The division is wide open now. I’d love to fight Tyson, but who wouldn’t? It’s marketable, it’s big money, and I think he’s beatable. But I think the real question here is ‘who wants to fight me?’ I’m undefeated, I’m ranked in the Top 10. I want someone to call me out. I’m a big draw and we’ll see who wants to fight me after Monte Barrett.
9. ESB: The WBC just ranked you as the #8 heavyweight in the world, how do you feel about that?
JM: Well, as I said, it’s a short-term goal. The WBC and I hope the WBA both have me in their top 10. They both been very good to me throughout my career. I kind of just want to keep inching up to the top!
10. ESB: Two quick questions to close with: Jones/Tarver- can we get a quick prediction? And, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
JM: I think it’s going to be a good fight. I know Tarver. We’ve spent some time together. At the Olympics, I was an alternate when he was competing, but Roy Jones… he’s the best there is today. Tarver could cause him a little confusion, but he just doesn’t have enough to test Roy.
ESB: what about you and Roy at heavyweight?
JM: Roy would be my most challenging opponent; my most difficult fight. I’d love to fight him so I could always say that I’ve fought the best. I think with my speed and my power and my combination of the two, I could hang in there with Roy better than anyone else in boxing.
ESB: And your fans?
JM: Locally, I want to say “Thank you” to everyone. To the news, fans ‘thanks.’ Its crazy. Recently, I’ve gotten emails from New Zealand, Australia, England. Just getting exposure in different places. And, to everyone, be patient, and before you know it I’ll be the heavyweight champ!
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