“Baby” Joe Mesi

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"Baby" Joe Mesi
Once considered Buffalo’s third franchise, Joe Mesi capitalized quickly on a successful career in the boxing ring to become a household name among Western New York sports enthusiasts. “Baby Joe”, as he is affectionately known, elevated Buffalo boxing into the national spotlight, bringing with it prominence to a city ready to embrace a hometown hero.

Born in Tonawanda, NY, Mesi attended Sweet Home High School where he was a three-sport athlete in football, baseball and wrestling, but it would ultimately be the sport of boxing, at the age of 19, that would define Mesi’s rapid national accent and career milestones.

As an amateur, Mesi was a three-time New York State Golden Gloves champion (1993, 1995 and 1996) with an impressive record that included a victory over future heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman.

In addition, Mesi was an Empire State Games gold medalist (1993), a United States Olympic alternate (1996) and a New York State Heavyweight champion (1999).

Managed by his father Jack throughout his 15-year career, Mesi signed a promotional contract with legendary fighter, then promoter, Sugar Ray Leonard. In April 2002, Mesi headlined a sold out University at Buffalo Alumni Arena as part of a nationally televised Friday Night Fights broadcast on ESPN2, aptly named “Buffalo Blast”. At the time, Leonard was quoted as saying “this young man will have a tremendous positive impact on our sport.”

During this unparalleled period of boxing resurgence in Western New York, Mesi was also credited with selling out what is now known as Key Bank Center, three times.

His cult-like following attracted the attention of HBO. As part of a multi-fight agreement, he boxed twice in nationally televised fights. Included was the North American Boxing Federation Heavyweight Championship (2003), which he captured in Buffalo. Later, he won the WBC United States National Boxing Heavyweight Championship (USNBC) in 2007.

Mesi compiled an undefeated professional record with 36 wins (29 by knockout) before receiving career ending news. An MRI indicated he had suffered at least one, perhaps two, subdural hematomas, a head injury when blood collects on the surface of the brain. As a result, Mesi was forced into early retirement and has not actively boxed since 2007.

He is a member of Ring 44 Buffalo Boxing Hall of Fame. And recently received a nod into the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame.

Since then, Mesi has made a name for himself as a top territory manager for Abbott Medical, where he sells medical implants to local physicians. He and his wife Michelle have three children – Hope (20), Juliet (8) and Joseph (6).

In a relatively short period of time, by boxing standards, Joe Mesi captivated a Buffalo sports community, became a hometown hero and in the process cemented his legacy as a true ambassador to the Western New York community.