By Keith Idec
Jesse Hart hopes beating Mike Gavronski on Saturday night leads to his rematch against Gilberto Ramirez.
It should, since Hart is the mandatory challenger again for Ramirez’s WBO super middleweight title. Hart just doesn’t think Ramirez wants to fight him again and suspects his second shot at the WBO’s 168-pound title could come against another contender.
“From what I read, Ramirez said he’s not looking for a rematch with Jesse Hart,” Hart told BoxingScene.com. “He’s gonna move up or he wants to unify, so I don’t know where he’s gonna go. I want the rematch. I would love to swap punches with Gilberto Ramirez again. That’s what I want. I want that back. I just want a chance to redeem myself, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen because he don’t wanna fight me.”
As much as he wants a rematch, Hart doesn’t blame Ramirez for seeking other challenges. Philadelphia’s Hart knows he hurt Ramirez with a right hand in the 11th round of their fight and understands why the unbeaten Mexican southpaw wouldn’t want to pick up where they left off September 22 in Tucson, Arizona.
Ramirez narrowly won a unanimous decision that night (115-112, 115-112, 114-113). Even though he suffered his first defeat, Hart demonstrated fortitude by overcoming a second-round knockdown to make their 12-round battle very competitive.
“When you go 12 rounds with somebody like myself, I wouldn’t wanna fight me again,” Hart said. “I understand where he’s coming from. You look at that 11th round, where I hit him with that right hand and he backed up to the ropes, I hurt him. I just didn’t realize he was hurt. But he knows he was hurt.”
Hart admits winning the WBO super middleweight title against someone other than Ramirez wouldn’t be as satisfying. Beyond wanting redemption, he considers Ramirez the top champion at 168 pounds.
While respectful of the only opponent to beat him, the 29-year-old Hart (24-1, 20 KOs) also wants to move forward with his career with or without Ramirez (38-0, 25 KOs).
“He wants to move up to light heavyweight,” said Hart, the son of onetime middleweight contender Eugene “Cyclone” Hart. “He says it’s getting hard for him to make 168. He should be willing to fight me if I’m the No. 1 contender. If he doesn’t wanna fight me again, just relinquish your belt and move up. What he’s telling the media and what I’m reading, it’s too many games. He’s trying to play with my head. Is he gonna move up? Or is he gonna fight me? I don’t know.”
Hart knows Gavronski would love to come to Atlantic City on Saturday night and ruin his championship plan in the first of two fights ESPN will televise from Ocean Resort Casino (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT). After Hart and Gavronski go at it, Philadelphia’s Bryant Jennings (23-2, 13 KOs) and Russia’s Alexander Dimitrenko (41-3, 26 KOs) will meet in the main event, a 12-round heavyweight bout.
The favored Hart knows he can’t overlook Gavronski (24-2-1, 15 KOs, 1 NC), who has proven his toughness, yet hasn’t defeated a top opponent.
The 32-year-old veteran from Tacoma, Washington, lost a 10-round unanimous decision to middleweight contender Tureano Johnson in July 2014 and was stopped after eight rounds by Dashon Johnson in their rematch in November 2015. Hart can attest to Dashon Johnson being better than his record (22-23-3, 7 KOs, 1 NC) because Johnson dropped Hart late in the 10th and final round of a fight Hart won by unanimous decision in March 2016.
“Gavronski wants the title shot just as bad as I want the title shot, so I’ve gotta make him pay for every little mistake he makes,” Hart said. “His mental game gets broken sometimes. Tureano Johnson broke him mentally. I believe, mentally, he’s not as strong as me. I just believe if I push him in a round hard enough, I can make him quit.
“I would never quit. I would rather go out there with the mentality that I’d rather have a man slaughter me than quit. I would never do that. That’s why I feel his mental game is not as strong as mine.”
Hart learned early in his last fight that carelessness could cost him his second title shot.
Demond Nicholson hurt Hart with a right hand just before the bell sounded to end the first round April 28 in Philadelphia. Hart overcame that troublesome moment, recorded three knockdowns and stopped Nicholson in the seventh round at Temple University’s Liacouras Center.
Their scheduled 10-rounder ended oddly.
Nicholson was slow to get up from the second knockdown Hart recorded in the seventh round. Referee Shawn Clark waved an end to the fight once an unresponsive Nicholson reached his feet, but Nicholson protested the stoppage.
Despite stopping Nicholson (18-3-1, 17 KOs), Hart was displeased with his performance that night.
“I never give myself high praise because I always look at what I could have done, not what I did,” Hart said. “I gave myself a C-plus for that performance. When I looked at the tape, I should have doubled up on my jab. I shouldn’t have used one jab with him and I should never have walked right through the front door in that first round. That’s what caused me to get caught with that right hand, because I got careless. I got careless because I didn’t respect nothing that he was throwing in that first round.
“When he felt my power with that right hand, he tied me up because he felt it. In my mind, I’m thinking, ‘He felt my power. Now he’s gonna be extra cautious,’ which he was. But he threw that right hand because I wasn’t extra cautious. When I knew he was extra cautious, I said, ‘I’m walking right in and there’s nothing he can do.’ Then he caught me with a surprising shot. So my whole thing is to not get lackadaisical no more. I can’t do that in this fight.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.