Buffalo 's “Baby” Joe Mesi hopes to continue in his evolution from ‘pretender' to ‘contender' this Saturday as he takes on former Cruiserweight champion Vassiliy Jirov at the Mandalay Bay . The bout, chief support to the Winky Wright-Shane Mosley clash, is set to answer once again the age-old question in boxing as to whether a good big guy beats a good ‘littler' guy.
Last time we saw Mesi on HBO he was picking himself up off the canvas from a picture perfect left hook courtesy of Monte Barrett. It was a shot that would have dropped most fighters. It caught Mesi right on the chin as he got sloppy with his defense and let his right hand hang low. Post-fight we heard the usual ‘maybe that was a good thing, getting knocked down, it gives you a chance to show you can come back from it' from Mesi.
Last time I checked, the only people who ever say getting knocked down is “a good thing” are the ones who just were knocked down. Trust me Baby Joe, getting knocked down is not good for your long term health as a heavyweight contender. Earlier in the Barrett bout Mesi had dropped his opponent and that helped him eke out a decision win to help keep his record a perfect 28-0. And now along comes Jirov.
It would be a stretch, in my opinion, to suggest that Jirov is much of a step up from Barrett as opposed to merely another move forward. Put it this way – would you favor Jirov by much over Barrett if they met? Not me. Jirov was last seen hovering around the Cruiserweight division outworking and defeating the likes of fringe fighters like Ernest Mateen and Joseph Kiwanuka. Those fights served to rebuild Jirov as he recovered from his only pro loss to James Toney. In that fight Jirov was knocked down by Toney in the 12th round and lost a decision in what was an entertaining bout. Perhaps seeing Toney step up to Heavyweight with success has given “The Tiger” the idea to step up as well, or perhaps he wants nothing to do with the likes of Wayne Braithwaite and a move up cures that.
Regardless, Jirov will take another HBO payday by stepping up in weight from 190 to 200+ when he takes on Mesi. Jirov has never been much of a defensive mover or a shaker and the added weight likely won't help that cause at all. At best Jirov is a strong aggressive fighter who comes forward throwing a high volume of punches and working the body well. At worst he is a guy who will catch as many punches as you throw at him and may be wading into waters too deep for his own good.
Expect Mesi to come into this fight 25 pounds heavier than Jirov and that advantage to be the difference in the end. Jirov is a strong fighter who can take a shot but also relies on winning the war of attrition to overcome and overwhelm his opposition. Against a physically bigger man who can punch it seems that Jirov will have to pay a very high price to get close enough to hurt Mesi. Because of this, it says here that on Saturday “Baby” Joe Mesi will use his movement and put together his combinations on his way to winning by decision or possible late round stoppage.
In accepting Jirov for this fight Team Mesi is looking at this bout for what it is – a good win over a ‘name' opponent, television exposure for their fighter, and the nice payday that comes with it. It has been proven over and over that in boxing a good big man does beat a good littler man. Team Mesi know this well.