LAS VEGAS - It didn't win him any fans among the assembled boxing experts, and it cast into doubt his status as a legitimate heavyweight contender, but Joe Mesi held on to beat former cruiserweight champ Vassily Jirov in the co-main event Saturday.
Mesi won a 10-round unanimous decision, getting a 94-93 advantage on all three judges cards despite being knocked down once in the ninth and twice in the 10th.
Mesi (29-0, 25 knockouts) was about to go down a third time when the bell ended it.
Mesi controlled the fight early, rocking Jirov twice and bloodying him in winning seven of the first eight rounds on every card. That saved him, because Jirov put together two dominant rounds to end the fight.
Jirov (33-2) won the 10th by 10-7 scores on two cards, 10-6 on another.
But the hole was too deep to punch out of.
"His experience let him survive," Mesi said.
Asked about a rematch, Mesi said, "No, I proved my point."
KING-SIZE PROMOTION: No point in letting such a big media gathering get away without letting them know loud and clear about the next big fight.
Six hours before Winky Wright and Shane Mosley met, Don King held court in the media room to promote his May 15 card featuring the light heavyweight championship rematch between champion Roy Jones Jr. and Tampa's Antonio Tarver. Jones beat Tarver in November, though Tarver and his supporters - and even a few in the media - think the decision was a bad one.
"I know I beat him, and he walked away with my WBC championship," Tarver said.
King referred to Tarver as Flash and the Caped Crusader, and said he "shines like onyx." The crowd got the biggest charge from King's claims that while Jones is Superman, Tarver has the "blacktonite."
ALL IN THE FAMILY: Andy Lockhart, owner of CD Roma's on 66th Street N in St. Petersburg, has had a big hand in Wright's success as one of the many local business owners who lent early support. Before Wright had bigger sponsors, Lockhart would give him spending money in exchange for advertising. Wright's trunks and robe often sported CD Roma patches (not to mention all the free meals Lockhart provided). Lockhart was here all week.
DEFECTIVE GOODS: Sellers were hawking T-shirts along the Vegas strip all weekend for a bargain price of $10 (they were selling for $25 inside Mandalay Bay). No buyers seemed to notice or care that on the back St. Petersburg was misspelled Petersburgh.
CELEBRITY WATCH: Former Bucs quarterback Shaun King, former Bucs running back Warrick Dunn and current Bucs Derrick Brooks, Anthony McFarland and Cory Ivy were in attendance. King is a Gibbs graduate, the school Wright attended. Other sports stars in attendance included Bears quarterback Kordell Stewart, Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, Giants outfielder Barry Bonds and former Lakers star Magic Johnson.