This weekend will mark just the second fight into Jesse Hart’s run as a light heavyweight contender, yet already long enough to feel the positive effects of fighting at a heavier weight.
The second-generation boxer from Philadelphia—whose father Eugene ‘Cyclone’ Hart was a 1970s middleweight knockout artist—abandoned the super middleweight division following a repeat 12-round title fight loss to Gilberto Ramirez in December 2018, with his sights firmly set on making a run at light heavyweight. The next step comes this Saturday, as he faces dangerous former title challenger Joe Smith Jr, live on ESPN from Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“I feel much more stronger,” Hart (26-2, 21KOs) insisted during a recent media conference call of his second full training camp at 175 pounds. “I believe my body is more mature. We were in the gym yesterday, me and Bernard (Hopkins, the Hall of Fame former two-division champ and Hart’s mentor). We were doing pull-ups. Bernard hit 25, straight from the door at [going on 55 years old this month]. I hit 35 [pull-ups] and in the gym we do this thing called repetition workout.
“We do the pull-ups, and then we do pushups, and then we do the sit-ups, all in one thing. So it was like with more weight on my body, it’s evening out.”
The struggles of shrinking his 6’3” frame down to a super middleweight uniform no longer exist, as shown in a clear-cut win over perennial Top 10 contender Sullivan Barrera last June. The bout was Hart’s first at 175 and his lone ring appearance of 2019, though the plan is an active 2020 campaign beginning with another clash versus a universally regarded Top 10 contender in Long Island’s Smith Jr. (24-3, 20KOs).
Even the downtime spent in between fights was spent maintaining a manageable weight, one which he feels make him a complete fighter moving forward.
“As far as my upper body strength, it’s all coming together at this time,” insists Hart. “Like I said, evening out like that at 168, my upper body might have been stronger but my legs couldn’t handle that, or it was just I’m top heavy. I couldn’t put that much weight on my legs because of the weight I had to be at 168.
“With this, the weight is much more evened out. Legs are strong, upper body is strong, everything is physically and mentally ready to go.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox