Hard work at the core of Jesse Hart's rise

Jesse Hart works on the speed bag as he prepares for his upcoming fight at Madison Square Garden.
Jesse Hart works on the speed bag as he prepares for his upcoming fight at Madison Square Garden. (MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: January 25, 2014

His trainer held out a boxing glove and widened its opening. Jesse Hart stuffed his taped left fist inside.

The 24-year-old fighter from North Philadelphia - shirtless and drenched in sweat - was ready to batter his trainer's punching mitts as a crowd gathered around the ring apron at Joe Hand Gym in Northern Liberties.

"Hard work," someone hollered.

"Work hard," Hart answered.

"Hard work," shouted another.

"Work hard," Hart answered.

The call and response continued, each time growing louder.

Hart, who fights on Saturday night in New York City, makes it clear that his career was not fed to him because his father sold out Tuesday night fight cards at the Spectrum or because Joe Frazier drove him to school in a white Cadillac.

Instead it is Hart's work ethic that caused Top Rank's Bob Arum - one of boxing's true power players - to sign him before he turned pro in 2012. Arum recently told Hart he will contend for a world title by October and be on a Wheaties box before he hangs up his gloves.

"Bob said I'm not just going to be a boxing star," said Hart. "He said I'm going to be a superstar."

Hart's father, Eugene Hart, was one of boxing's stiffest punchers in an era when Philadelphia boxing reigned supreme. He turned pro in 1969 and knocked out his first 19 opponents, earing the nickname "Cyclone."

Just as his father's moniker was an apt description of his powerful left hook, Hart needed one as fitting for his own career.

It was before a workout - a few months before Hart's 2012 pro debut - that he found it.

"We were talking in the gym, and somebody said: 'It's hard work, Jesse Hart,' " said his father, who helps train Hart along with Fred Jenkins and Danny Davis. "And we just took it from there. Because he does work hard."

His co-manager Doc Nowicki wears Hart's "Hard Work" nickname on the back of a black T-shirt and Hart (11-0, 10 knockouts) will have it stitched into his trunks before Saturday's bout with Derrick Findley (20-11-1, 13 KO's).

The fight will be televised online at TopRank.tv and is on the undercard of North Philadelphia heavyweight Bryant Jennings' HBO-televised bout.

Hart's father said he often has to pull his son away from the gym or tell him he's rattled the speed bag enough for the day.

He watched from ringside at Joe Hand's Gym as his son zipped around the ring like a point guard. His long legs - thin but strong - cut with precision as he threw quick jabs.

The fighter later sat in a chair on the gym floor and strapped a piece of leather to his head. Using his neck muscles, Hart lifted the weight attached to the leather strap. The crowd chanted "hard work" as he finished.

Every other day, Hart runs eight or 10 miles at 8 a.m. He goes to the boxing gym in the afternoon and ends his night lifting weights at L.A. Fitness.

Before his first professional fight, Hart bet his father that he would eclipse his knockout streak and dispatch the first 22 fighters he faced.

But in his fifth fight, Hart injured his hand by knocking down his opponent in the first round. He was unable to push for the knockout and settled for a unanimous decision.

"I put my foot in my mouth on that one," said Hart.

And he has since knocked out his last six foes. His last three fights have lasted an average of 1 minute, 29.6 seconds. And Hart sees Saturday's fight ending in the third round.

"Don't blink," said Hart. "Get there early, get your popcorn, and get in your seat. Because it's going to be an early night."

After badgering his trainer's punching mitts, Hart walloped the heavy bag. His sweat dripped so profusely that Davis trailed his feet with a mop.

"That's why they can't beat me," Hart said as the black bag rocked to and from. "I work hard."

The chants of "hard work" began again, and Hart replied "work hard."


Saturday is Fight Night

The Theater at Madison Square Garden

Jesse Hart vs. Derrick Findley

Super middleweights, six rounds, 7:50 p.m.*

No TV (free webcast: www.toprank.tv)

Hart      Findley   

11-0    Record   20-11-1**   

10    Knockouts   13   

5-0, 5 KO's    Last Five   0-3-1**   

Philadelphia     Hometown   Gary, Ind.   

Hard Work    Nickname   Superman   

24    Age   29   

6-foot-3    Height   5-foot-6   

771/2 inches    Reach   74 inches   

Bryant Jennings vs. Artur Szpilka

Heavyweights, 10 rounds, 9:50 p.m.* TV: HBO

Jennings      Szpilka   

17-0    Record   16-0   

9    Knockouts   12   

5-0, 4 KOs    Last Five   5-0, 3 KO's   

Philadelphia    Hometown   Wieliczka, Poland   

By-By    Nickname   The Pin   

29    Age   24   

6-foot-2    Height   6-foot-4   

D.C. Armory, Washington

Gabriel Rosado vs. Jermell Charlo

Junior middleweights, 10 rounds, 9 p.m.*

TV: Showtime

Rosado      Charlo   

28    Age   23   

21-7**    Record   22-0   

13    Knockouts   11   

2-2, 2 KOs**    Last Five   5-0, 3 KO's   

Philadelphia    Hometown   Richmond, Texas   

King    Nickname   Iron Man   

5-foot-11    Height   5-foot-11   

74 inches    Reach   73 inches   

*Estimated **Includes a No Contest


 


mbreen@phillynews.com

@matt_breen

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