Wednesday, June 5, 2002
Leonard impressed with Mesi
PHOENIX -- With a fight card featuring promising young
heavyweight "Baby'' Joe Mesi on Friday, the night before Mike
Tyson fights Lennox Lewis, promoter Sugar Ray Leonard hopes to take
another step toward giving boxing a cleaner image.
"He's a first-rate prototype of my kind of fighter,'' Leonard
said Wednesday of the 20-year-old Mesi. "He can fight, he's
committed, he's very disciplined and he's a good kid.''
Mesi improved to 22-0 with a sixth-round knockout of Keith
McKnight on April 5. It was the 20th time an opponent failed to go
the distance with the Tonawanda, N.Y., fighter, who will be matched
with Talmadge Griffis (21-2-3) on Friday night at Rawhide, a
Western theme park in suburban Scottsdale.
Leonard said Mesi, who moved up from 27th in WBC rankings to
19th with his last win and is No. 1 in the NABC, has the potential
to be a contender in the sport's glamour division but needs
seasoning against increasingly tough foes.
"The heavyweight division is not that solid,'' Leonard said.
"He needs maybe six fights. After each one, we'll critique him,
assess where he's at.''
The Griffis-Mesi bout, scheduled for 10 rounds, will be
televised nationally as part of SRL Boxing's 10th live show in as
The card also includes a lightweight match between former
featherweight champion Gregorio "Goya'' Vargas (41-7-2) and
Emanuel Burton (25-19-4).
Before signing autographs and speaking to a reporter at a sports
bar outside the Bank One Ballpark, Leonard went into the Arizona
Diamondbacks clubhouse and watched batting practice before the game
against the Houston Astros.
He was impressed with the speed of movement and concentration at
"It's a lot like boxing. You can see that zone,'' Leonard said.
He liked Rawhide, which features Old West-style buildings,
wagons, gold panning and staged gunfights, as the site for fights
he hopes will be linked in the public mind with the heavyweight
title blockbuster in Memphis, Tenn.
"It seemed kind of natural,'' Leonard said. "That fight
Saturday night is going to be a wild, wild night with Tyson and
Lewis. I like the atmosphere out there, the cowboys, the
gunslingers. It's a natural.''