After earning an amateur record of 85-11, Hart signed an exclusive promotional contract with Top Rank at age 22. Now 24, Hart continues to be trained by his father and credits him for much of the success he has had during his short pro career.
"At the end of the day, my father is my father at home, but [in the gym] he is my trainer and he understands it, too," Hart said before his workout at the Joe Hand Boxing Gym yesterday afternoon. "I just think it has worked out this far. Through the amateurs, everybody said it wasn't going to work, but we're different than all of those other guys. I love my dad, my father. If it wasn't for my dad who paved the way for me, I wouldn't be here today."
Hoping to follow in his father's footsteps, Jesse does not believe there is any additional pressure beyond the regular pressures of boxing. While his father recorded 19 straight knockouts to begin his career, Hart said he has not felt the pressure since the fifth fight of his pro career, a four-round unanimous decision against Stephen Tyner at Temple University.
"The pressure is off now," Hart said. "Me and my dad made a bet when I first turned pro. I said, 'Dad, I think I can pass 19 straight knockouts . . . I think I'm good to get 23.' He said the bet is on. It was a bet and I think my fourth or fifth fight at McGonigle Hall and I hurt my hand in the first round, but I dropped the kid. It went the distance, but I dropped the kid and ever since then, I've felt the pressure was off."
While celebrating his 49th birthday yesterday, IBF light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins stopped by the Joe Hand Boxing Gym to observe the combined workout of undefeated heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings and Hart. During a one-on-one talk with Hart, Hopkins repetitively told Hart that he will one day be a champion like Hopkins was as recently as last March.
"I see his last name and his demeanor," Hopkins said. "He has heart, but I also see intelligence in him and I see a person that thrives off of other people's success in history, which Jesse understands that you have to first learn the craft to be able to deal with all of the adversities that are soon to come. Coming from a father that was significant during the era of boxing in Philadelphia, that doesn't hurt him at all to have that type of pedigree or experience either.
"I had people to relate to and see when I was coming up, but he has myself, other champions and the city of Philadelphia as motivation and with the talent that he carries with that, that spells trouble for a lot of people in his division because he does what he has to do in and outside of the gym."
After Jesse missed out on the 2012 Olympics, his father set a new goal for his son, to not just become one of the best, but to become the best. In addition to his hopes of earning the title as the best ever, Hart also wants to restore prominence to the Philly boxing scene.
"Me and my dad always talk about that. We always say that we are going to bring boxing back to the home capital," Hart said. "Once I get that world title, you will start seeing fights at McGonigle Hall as you did 2 years ago. You will start seeing fights at their height in this city because we're going to bring boxing back and that's why I'm building up my fan base around the world."
For the time being, Hart remains focused on his next opponent, Findley (20-11-1, 13 KOs). Hart is determined to earn his 11th knockout next Saturday in New York City.
"We are preparing for everything that he's got and it won't be enough for me," Hart said of Findley. "I'm coming in by storm and I'm coming in to knock him out. Once I've got that determination in my mind, I think I can do it. This is the one where I want to get him out of there. I don't want him to last. I just feel like if he lasts, I will be put into another category. I just want to go out there and dominate this kid so bad and I want to make him quit and show that he doesn't belong in there with me."
Hart, who is currently rated No. 10 by the USBA, understands he will have his hands full with Findley, who scored a second-round TKO of contender Ronald Hearns in 2012 and has gone the distance against undefeated contenders Matt Korobov, Gilberto Ramirez Sanchez and J'Leon Love.
"I approach this fight differently. I'm pushing for the knockout," Hart said. "To separate myself from the guys that didn't knock him out, I have to knock this guy out. I have to. I think I'm different and I always tell myself I'm different from others, but to separate myself, I have to knock him out.
"It's supposed to be a six-rounder, but it's not going to go beyond three. Don't blink. Get there early, get your popcorn and get to your seats early because it's going to be an early night. I want to separate myself. It has nothing to do with Philly, nothing to do with how [Findley] fights. It's not based around him. It's based around me, and I have a goal and that's what I want to do, fulfill that goal."