By Ben Jacobs
Philadelphia appears to be the city that just keeps giving to the sport of boxing. Legends such as Joe Frazier and Bernard Hopkins, to name just two, helped put the city on the boxing map. The current crop of talent from The City of Brotherly Love is beginning to turn heads, without even mentioning WBC/WBA light welterweight champion Danny García. Bryant Jennings may not be too far away from a world title shot at heavyweight. Julian Williams is receiving glowing reviews as another name to add the competitive 154lbs division and former amateur standout Jesse Hart is one of Top Rank’s brightest prospects, a talent making a rapid ascent through the professional ranks.
Hart has burst on to the scene with 10 knockouts in 12 fights over two years; he gives huge credit to the people in charge of charting his route to the top and clearly has a great deal of faith in his promoter, Top Rank.
“I’m very pleased with my progress so far,” he beamed, speaking to BoxingScene.
“My promoter, my managers, they’re doing a good job with my career; I think everything is going well. You’ve got a bunch of fighters out there that think they’re good and want a piece of me. I hear my name being called out. At the end of the day whatever my promoters and managers say, that’s the best route to go because as you see, had I been with another promoter or management team, my progress wouldn’t have been this good. That’s just my opinion.
“I’m a big guy and I can fight. As Bob Arum told me, I’m gonna be the one who carries Top Rank on my back. I could have fought on three cards in April, they said I could fight whenever I want, but I chose the one in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay [April 11] as I get to be televised.”
As is often the case with hard-punching young talents, finding opponents can be a tricky task, particularly finding the right opponents at the appropriate time.
“People are turning me down, it’s not like I don’t want to fight - they know I want to fight. At least eight people turned me down already, after Ossie Duran. Make no mistake I’m sorry for what happened to Ossie Duran [The Ghanaian suffered a retina injury ruling him out of a meeting with Hart].
“I was really looking forward to that because he just had a draw on ESPN and I was looking to make a statement by coming in there and truly doing him in, but you can’t cry over spilled milk.
“I want to fight whoever is out there, I gave the public names of who I wanted to fight and nobody responded so I have to sit back and wait. I was calling out Badou Jack before his last fight, I don’t want to keep calling these guys out - they know who they are. People know I wanted the Jack fight for a long time, I was telling people he’s not what he is, but I wish him the best in his career. “When you get knocked out like that you start doubting yourself, you’ve got to come back from that.”
Hart is not one to hold back on what he truly thinks. Like most Philadelphia fighters, he is an excellent orator, expanding on his frustration at not securing the opponents he wants.
“You’ve got the kid over in the UK, James DeGale, I’ve been saying I can beat him. I call out these guys and they don’t want to fight. I think he’s going for a shot at [Sakio] Bika. I just fought Derrick Findley, some people said I was gonna get knocked out. I demolished him. I truly obliterated him. I’m only 12 fights in and I’m the most avoided fighter right now in the super middleweight division. Like I said, sooner or later they’ll have to fight me.
“You’ve got the kid from Germany, Robert Stieglitz, I wanna fight him. I don’t think he’s a real fighter. Is he gonna fight Arthur Abraham again? Come on, who wants to see that?
“People say I’m just a power puncher but if they can’t see how I set my power punch up off my jab they don’t know boxing. I set everything up off my jab. If my jab can’t touch you my right hand can’t, that’s how I look at it. Everyone’s forgetting about the jab because my right hand comes in so fast and strong.”
Jesse will be a keen observer for the upcoming Philadelphia clash between Amir Mansour and Steve Cunningham. As someone who knows both men personally, he cannot predict a winner but he does offer an insight into the mindset of the two heavyweights.
“I wish both of them good luck. I love both those guys. I sparred with Steve Cunningham and I learned a lot from him when I was about 16. He taught me a lot of things, not just boxing. He taught me about things outside the ring - life, being family-orientated. His work ethic in the gym is how I approach it, so we click with that mentality. Amir is saying you have to kill him to beat him, that’s a powerful statement, man. Amir was telling me how he has nothing and Steve has a wife and kids. He said he’s willing to die before he lets Steve beat him. He told me he’s not gonna respect any punches Steve Cunningham throws!”
As the son of a former successful fighter who fought the likes of Marvin Hagler, Bennie Briscoe and Vito Antuofermo, Hart is a student of the game and displays knowledge of the sport on a wider scale. A certain Welshman who is still considered by many as the best super middleweight of all time has left a lasting impression on the 24-year-old.
“I love Joe Calzaghe, Chris Eubank, David Haye and Tyson Fury. I love UK fighters. They continue to keep the boxing game real and the boxing world needs the UK. I respect those UK fighters who crossed the pond to fight in the US. Joe Calzaghe is a hall of famer - they love Joe here in Philadelphia. Every gym here has a picture of Joe hanging up! I’m dead serious, man. He beat two Philadelphia fighters, Charles Brewer and Bernard Hopkins. He came across the pond and beat Bernard. Then he did the same with Roy Jones. I’m just striving to do it how Joe Calzaghe did it in the super middleweight division.
“I have a goal. I want to be a world champion within the next year and a half. I’ve got my fight in April then I’m looking to fight in May, and June 7 on the Martínez-Cotto card. Bob Arum said I can fight on any card I want to. I have the best matchmaker out there in Brad Goodman, and I haven’t turned down any opponent he gave me. Whatever they give me I’m willing to take.”