by David P. Greisman
Super-middleweight prospect Jesse Hart is returning to the ring on April 11, fighting at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on the ESPN2 “Friday Night Fights” broadcast airing the night before Timothy Bradley’s rematch with Manny Pacquiao.
Hart, a 24-year-old who won a National Golden Gloves tournament and a national championship in 2011, is now 12-0 with 10 knockouts as a pro. He will face Ossie Duran, the veteran 36-year-old measuring stick opponent who is 28-11-3 with 11 KOs. Duran is coming off a draw with Caleb Truax on the January season premiere of “Friday Night Fights.”
“People feel as thought he got shorted the first time around, but there’s going to be no question about this fight on ESPN. He will not go the distance with me,” Hart told BoxingScene.com on Feb. 28.
BoxingScene.com: What do you think of Duran?
Hart: “I think he’s an OK fighter. I don’t think nothing’s special about the guy. He’s strong. He got heavy feet. I don’t see nothing special about him. He just comes forward and throws punches. But when he gets in there with me, I will make him pay for every mistake that he does.”
BoxingScene.com: What are you working on in terms of improving yourself and also in terms of catching on with fans right now?
Hart: “I just think about the fans. I’m the next superstar in the sport, after the Floyds and Pacquiaos and Andre Wards. Everybody’s got to understand, I’m going to be the next one to carry the sport of boxing. I just really believe it. And I’m talking not just out of passion, I’m talking based on facts. I come from an incredible bloodline, my father, [former fighter] Eugene ‘Cyclone’ Hart, and the stats of my amateur career speaks for itself. And my pro career is speaking for itself, 12-0 with 10 knockouts.”
BoxingScene.com: You told me you see yourself in a title shot within a year…
Hart: “Yes, that’s what [Top Rank’s] Bob Arum and Todd duBoef said.”
BoxingScene.com: So what do you feel you need to improve on offensively, defensively, style-wise, technically? Do you feel like you’re a finished product right now?
Hart: “I don’t feel like I’m finished. In this game, you can never stop learning. Once you feel as though you’re not learning anything anymore, it’s time to quit. That’s what my dad said. There’s a lot more things that I can improve on. But if you look at some of the guys that I’ve already fought: tough, tough veterans like Derrick Findley, who’s been in there with Andre Ward, and no one’s ever stopped him — how I dominated that fight. And with only 11 fights at that time, you have to look at these qualities in me.
“I know that I got to correct some things in my program, but at the end of the day you’ve got to understand, I’m with the best trainers in the business. And under the tutelage of my father, Fred Jenkins and the great Danny Davis, I think I’ll be unstoppable.”
[Note: Findley does have one technical knockout loss on his record, against Andre Dirrell in 2009, when his corner stopped the bout after six rounds.]
BoxingScene.com: You said there are some things you can improve on. Can you elaborate on those?
Hart: “It gets better with each fight. But I just think I don’t have to sit in the pocket and fight as much as I should. … Sometimes I get in there and I fight off heart. I fight off just raw inspiration and raw talent. And sometimes I don’t use my head. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to be smart. Boxing’s about smartness. I think I sit in the pocket a little too long, but that’s my own fault. I want to give the fans what they want to see, and that’s a fight.”
BoxingScene.com: Is there a certain world titleholder that you want more than anybody else?
Hart: “Whoever. I want the WBO title, because that means a lot, and I know who got it: Robert Stieglitz, from Germany. I would love to fight him. I would love to get in the ring with him.”
[Note: This interview was conducted prior to Stieglitz’s loss to Arthur Abraham on March 1.]
BoxingScene.com: Are you willing to travel to face him?
Hart: “I’m willing to travel. I’m willing to go to his hometown. I’ll do whatever to get that belt from Robert. I believe that I’m one of the best super middleweights out there, and if I believe that, then it’s only a certain amount of time until people believe it. But they won’t believe it until I get a world title.”
BoxingScene.com: Why him, and why that title?
Hart: “Because the WBO title is the best title out there to have right now. Bradley has it. Salido has one — well, not anymore. I just think that’s the title to have. All the big names out there, I’ve called them out. I’m sure you’ve read on different websites. I’ve called the [Badou] Jacks out. I’ve called the [Carl] Froches out. I’ve called these guys. Like I said, I’m a real fighter, and if you don’t like me, then you don’t like a real fighter. You like the phoniness and the fakeness of the game. I’m here to prove, and to get guys out of the game that shouldn’t be here.”
BoxingScene.com: There’s a lot going on at super middleweight, but there’s also a lot going on at light heavyweight. How much longer do you see yourself at 168, and is 175 a possibility?
Hart: “175 is definitely a good possibility. 168 is where I want to be until I get a world title and accomplish what I want to accomplish, and that’s becoming the undisputed super middleweight champion of the world, which hasn’t been done in a long time.”
BoxingScene.com: Although we do have a true champion, a lineal champion, in Andre Ward right now.
Hart: “He’s a legitimate champion. He’s definitely a legitimate champion in my book. But like I said, I want to become undisputed champion. I want all the belts at 168. And then we can possibly talk about 175. There’s a lot of guys up there, and I know that’s the weight to be at right now. You’ve got Kovalev, Adonis Stevenson, Pascal. That division is packed. With them guys, when it’s ready, when I’m ready to move up, then we’ll make it happen.”
BoxingScene.com: Any final thoughts for your fans?
Hart: “For my fans, man, it’s only a matter of time before y’all start seeing me mainstream on HBO Pay-Per-View cards and HBO cards. Look out for me, man, and keep watching. Don’t miss it. Tune in. Follow me on Twitter @Hart2Y. Follow me on Instagram at 1hardworkhart. Follow me on Facebook at Jesse Hard Work Hart.”
Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at email@example.com Tags: Jesse Hart