When will the spotlight catch up to Jesse Hart?
If you take a moment to think that you could handle all pressure, maybe – just maybe – you could live a day in the life of Jesse Hart. Pressure is something Hart has had to deal with in various forms throughout his life. He is the son of Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, a middleweight contender from the Golden Age of middleweights in Philadelphia during the 1970s. Other than being his family’s namesake, after an accomplished career in the amateurs – one that saw him compete on behalf of America in various international competitions – Jesse Hart decided to turn professional, with, of course, his father as his head trainer. For the younger Hart, these pressures have continued to drive him toward the goals he seems predestined to achieve. While Hart, 21-0 (17), and his team are aware they are on the cusp of setting a new stage in his career, that can be life-changing, this top-rated super middleweight is simply waiting for the spotlight of the boxing world to catch up to him.
Fighters with natural charisma are considered a blessing by others who are involved with the sport. From television executives to managers to promoters, they see the types of fighters handlers believe with whom they have crossover appeal. It is this understanding of the fight game that has fueled the naturally charismatic Hart, since he was a young boy. “This is something that I am ready for. We know that a title shot is just around the corner. First things first though; we gotta handle April 8th and (Alan) Campa (16-2 (11)).” From his answer, regarding he is yet to get a crack at one of the 168-pound world championship straps, you instantly get the feel, not just from his words, but the way in which Hart delivers them that, while boxing is competition at its core, it is indeed a business.
At this point, in the careers of many high-profile prospects who turn professional, they would have not only received a title shot; they also would have been main events or, at least, have had co-feature bouts on one of the premium networks. While Hart has had some television bouts to try and enhance his profile, being signed to Top Rank Promotions usually gives those opportunities, in abundance, to up-and-coming prospects, whom, not unlike Hart, become contenders. Again, this is something that is clearly not lost on Hart.
As Jesse Hart gets his hands wrapped by Danny Davis before a workout at the famous Joe Hand Boxing Gym – now known as Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, and no longer just North Philly (thank you, gentrification) – Hart takes a moment to pause before answering how it feels to be on the untelevised portion of the Vasyl Lomachenko-Jason Sosa HBO card, on Saturday night, at the MGM National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Maryland, “It is what it is. I’m aware of how this business works. Yeah, it’s a little frustrating but our time will come.” What Hart is subtly speaking about is how, for the past decade or so, his promoter Top Rank Promotions has been pushing fighters with a Latino background and not as many African-American fighters as they have in the past.
Yes, there are the Timothy Bradleys and Terence Crawfords of the world. However if you really look at Top Rank’s roster, other than the aforementioned names – and one Manny Pacquiao – the stable has been a who’s who of fighters with Latin surnames. In recent years, along with these Latin surnames, there has been a rise in Eastern Europeans with the occasional Asian name sprinkled in. What seems to be the norm, to Hart’s credit, he again handles this subject matter with the grace of a professional who is aware of his status in the current economical ecosystem that envelops prizefighting.
“(Latinos in boxing are) a huge market. I know that. African-Americans don’t get behind up-and-comers like they used to, back in the day. Of course, we will watch the big money fighters and fights but investing in the whole career of a guy doesn’t happen much anymore. Unless he’s a fighter from your hometown or you have some connection to him.” This is the case with Hart and the city from which he he hails, Philadelphia. You see the last time Hart fought in front of his home crowd was a year ago at the Arena in south Philly. Hart rose to his feet after being caught with a shot that put him down for the first time. Some say the shot from Dashon Johnson was after the bell but, either way you look at it, Hart answered several questions on that evening, “I sold that fight to the city, man. I went to schools, universities, high-traffic areas in the city, nursing homes, wherever. I promoted the night as much and as heavy as I could. I wanted people to see that I could carry a promotion.”
Carry it he did. That night of action, with Hart in the main event, was played out in front of a sold-out, standing room-only crowd. “I got up and did what I had to in there to win in the end. I sold the fight and the night to my people in Philly. Wouldn’t you say I answered key questions?” After encountering the pressure Hart has faced, not just throughout his life but the obstacles he has faced in his career, thus far, it could be easy for any fighter to become frustrated with not receiving opportunities he may feel he is ready for. Staying focused, despite not being exactly where he would like to be, is paramount for Hart, “Everything takes time; ya know? It’s just going to take a little longer. I feel that I got a lot of experience and have become seasoned. Now, I just have to keep my eye and focus on where we’re about to go.”
All of this talk of wanting and waiting for his world championship opportunity is not lost on one Danny Davis. For those of you whom are not aware of who Davis is, he is the longtime second assist to future Hall-of-Famer Bernard Hopkins, a mainstay in the “Executioner’s” corner, regardless of the head trainer. Davis is also a mainstay in Philadelphia boxing. His experience in high-caliber fights and training camps are undeniable. How does he feel about Hart and all of the title shot talk by everyone around him? “Look man; I get it. You have to ask these questions,” states Davis. “I’ve had to kick guys out of our training camps before. I tell them to leave the gym, ’cause we are only focused on Campa and Saturday night.” Davis is well aware of just how vital it is for Hart to stay focused and to avoid any frustration or letdowns. “A lot of guys didn’t want to fight us. Campa stepped up and took the fight. He knows that this is a chance for him to make a name for himself.”
Although Jesse Hart has yet to fight for a world championship, he is currently the USBA and WBO NABO super middleweight champion, which means a victory over him would instantly boost any fighter’s name in the rankings and possibly put him in line for a mandatory title shot against WBO champion Gilberto Ramirez. It’s believed that, should Hart pass the Campa test and Ramirez successfully defend the WBO strap later this month, the two will meet later this year.
“Campa must have seen something in Jesse that he thinks he can exploit. Plus, he has faith in his skills and ability, so you know he is going to come with it,” Davis emphatically comments. “Not only do we have those belts, and it’s a big card, but Jesse has the last name of ‘Hart.’ Fighters know that a win next to his name is another way to boost up their career.” Jesse Hart is all too familiar with that pressure. He has been fighting against other fighters wanting to use his last name as a steppingstone his whole life. “I bathe in that type of pressure, always have and always will,” quips Hart. “To me, that’s why all of my fights are like title fights. It’s nothing new to me ’cause of my last name and my father’s legacy in the sport. My opponents always bring their A-game.”
Just how the Jesse Hart story continues remains to be seen. A constant stream of consciousness regarding his current status in the sport consumes him. His professionalism, dedication and sense of pride, regarding his surname, allows him to handle all forms of pressure in a dignified manner – no matter how his tale ends.