Jesse Hart is moving on to the next stage of his career.
The veteran contender and former two-time title challenger is among several fighters who have either parted ways with or have been released from Top Rank in recent weeks. Hart confirmed the news on Monday, taking to social media to reveal his becoming a free agent after having been affiliated with the industry powerhouse throughout his nine-year pro career.
“After a long, successful partnership, Top Rank and I have decided to part ways,” Hart announced from his personal Twitter account.
Top Rank did not offer an official statement, though several members of the Las Vegas-based company—including Hall of Fame matchmaker Bruce Trampler and media relations director Evan Korn—publicly offered their best wishes to the 31-year-old Philadelphia born-and-bred contender.
Hart (26-3, 21KOs) has not fought since a 10-round points loss to Long Island’s Joe Smith Jr. (27-3, 21KOs) last January, a setback which ultimately cost him a chance to contend for a light heavyweight title. That opportunity instead went to Smith, who prevailed in a four-man tournament ordered by the WBO to crown a new light heavyweight titlist.
The loss to Smith was followed by the coronavirus pandemic, further stalling Hart’s progress as well as ultimately failed efforts to secure a notable fight for his return. It wasn’t from a lack of trying, as the charismatic Philly native was willing to take on all comers. His name was floated as a possible future foe for super middleweight prospect Edgar Berlanga (17-0, 16KOs), though such a matchup never officially evolved beyond the discussion stage.
Hart emerged as a fearsome punching super middleweight contender, not unlike his father and trainer Eugene ‘Cyclone’ Hart who was among the hardest hitters among the 1970s middleweight scene. The younger Hart was brought along the right way by Top Rank and Peltz Boxing, beginning with his June 2012 pro debut on the undercard of Tim Bradley’s upset win over Manny Pacquiao in the first of their three-fight series.
Hart also appeared on the undercard of another iconic Pacquiao loss, when the Filipino legend dropped a 12-round decision to Floyd Mayweather on a May 2015 show at MGM Grand in Las Vegas that remains the highest-grossing boxing event in history. Hart fared much better in his role on the show, scoring a 6th round knockout of Chicago’s Mike Jimenez in their matchup of unbeaten prospects.
Five more wins followed before Hart landed the first of two title opportunities. Both came versus then-reigning WBO super middleweight titlist Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez, with Hart coming up just short on both occasions. Hart dropped a competitive 12-round unanimous decision in September 2017 and a majority decision in their December 2018 rematch.
The latter defeat to Ramirez was the last at super middleweight for Hart, who moved up to light heavyweight. Just two fights have followed—a 10-round win over former title challenger Sullivan Barrera on the June 2019 undercard of Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21KOs) who made his Las Vegas debut, followed by the aforementioned loss to Smith.
“This relationship has been important to building my career,” acknowledges Hart. “[H]owever I'm looking forward to working on forming new partnerships and continuing to take my career to the next level.”
The news comes on the heels of junior welterweight prospect Elvis Rodriguez having been released by Top Rank, in a story broken over the weekend by The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger. BoxingScene.com has learned that junior featherweight contender Carlos Castro (26-0, 11KOs) is not only no longer with Top Rank but already in promising talks with at least two other promoters at present time.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox