2006-06-28 / Sports

Mesi wins by unanimous decision over last-minute replacement foe

by JASON NADOLINSKI Reporter

Town of Tonawanda heavyweight contender "Baby" Joe Mesi tries to slip a straight punch through Stephane Tessier's defense during their six-round match Friday at Uniprix Stadium in Montreal. Mesi improved to 31-0 via the judges' unanimous decision. Photo by Jeffrey Barnes Town of Tonawanda heavyweight contender "Baby" Joe Mesi tries to slip a straight punch through Stephane Tessier's defense during their six-round match Friday at Uniprix Stadium in Montreal. Mesi improved to 31-0 via the judges' unanimous decision. Photo by Jeffrey Barnes "Baby" Joe Mesi took another step towards regaining his spot among boxing's heavyweight elite Friday night, defeating Stephane Tessier, a last-minute replacement opponent, in his second fight since returning from a two-year suspension.

Mesi, a Tonawanda native, was scheduled to take on Brazil's Daniel Frank in a non-televised bout as part of ESPN's "Friday Night Fights," but Frank was unable to leave his home country because of problems with his visa.

Without an opponent the night before the official weigh-in, Mesi and his team had to scramble to find a willing and able fighter on extremely short notice, which led them to Tessier. Tessier had no problems reaching the venue since he is from Montreal, the sight of the fight.

"Things like this have happened before in the past, and it'll probably happen a couple more times too as I get back on track," Joe Mesi said in a telephone interview Monday. "I'm starting my career over in a sense, so it's just something I've got to deal with."

Mesi improved to 31-0 in his career with the six-round unanimous decision victory, while Tessier, who has been pro fighter for slightly more than a year, fell to 3-8.

"We had to scurry around to find someone and that can be very distracting," Jack Mesi, who is Joe Mesi's manager and father, said via telephone Monday. "People assume that the guy who takes the fight on short notice has it tough, but it's just as hard on the guy who was preparing for a totally different style of fight. Joe had no film (on Stephane). You just hope that you get a round to figure the guy out."

Mesi was by far the more active of the two fighters, landing nearly as many punches (118 of 519) as Tessier threw (169), according to ESPN's post-match tally. Mesi connected on 80 blows to the head and 38 shots to the body compared to Tessier's 42 punches to the head and 21 to the body.

"The guys I've fought my last two fights are guys where before, I was walking through them, so it's a little frustrating," Joe Mesi said. "But, it's a blessing in disguise because I'm getting the rounds I need. It's just the way it's got to be right now."

Tessier, who looked like a somewhat smaller version of Butterbean, was more accurate than Mesi, landing 37 percent of his total punches thrown compared to Mesi's 23 percent. Tessier appeared more intent on absorbing Mesi's offensive onslaught and then picking his spots to try and get in a few shots. His strategy paid off in allowing Tessier to go the distance for just the second time in his pro career.

"I did what could be expected of me," Joe Mesi said. "I felt about 75 percent of my old self. I did all I could do against a guy who I had no information about. He was a very defensive fighter."

Friday's fight was Mesi's second since he suffered multiple subdural hematomas in his victory over Vassiliy Jirov on March 13, 2004. After his suspension was lifted by a Nevada judge, Mesi returned to the ring in Puerto Rico on April 1, 2006, where he posted a unanimous decision win over Ronald Bellamy.

Friday's bout also marked Mesi's return to national television, which while unplanned certainly wasn't a negative for Team Mesi.

"It was great to be back on television," Jack Mesi said. "People who watched the fight got to see a great comeback in the making. We talked to our doctor today and he said that all we need to do is get in shape, that we have nothing else to worry about. We're absolutely healthy and we're going forward."

Mesi's win gave him a further indication of the areas he needs to improve on before he steps between the ropes again. The date, location and opponent for Mesi's next fight have not yet been finalized. "Just after studying the tape, I see that I

need to be more explosive and quicker, and that I need to improve my speed and stamina," Joe Mesi said. "We're definitely working on it. I just want to stay active. I want to box once a month, and I want to win a little more impressively. I think if I can do that, it'll open more eyes. People will see that I'm determined to get back to where I was. It's just going to take some time."

"Joe is working out in the gym, working on his cardio and weight training, and he's on a regular regimen for boxing in the gym," Jack Mesi said. "Is he 100 percent yet? No. Will he need a bunch more tune-up fights? Yes. Will he take those fights? Yes. We need those tune-up fights and we're entitled to them. Joe wasn't even allowed in the gym while he was off those two years, so that meant absolutely no training. We played by the rules and were completely out of the sport for two years. When we feel he's ready to move up, we'll do that."

e-mail: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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