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Clay-Bey Bounces Back Against Mesi for Berth


AUGUSTA, Ga. — As Lawrence Clay-Bey stood waiting in his corner for the opening bell to sound Saturday at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, the super heavyweight glanced down at a television monitor below the ring.

It showed Clay-Bey taking a standing eight-count in Friday night's loss to Joseph Mesi in the U.S. Box-offs. The defeat, Clay-Bey's first in nearly a year, forced the two to fight again for a place on this year's Olympic team.

"I looked down and said to myself, 'You're not going to be in a corner today,"' Clay-Bey said.

Clay-Bey and Mesi didn't spend much time in the corners during their rematch. In fact, they didn't spend a whole lot of time in the ring. A crunching right hook by Clay-Bey to Mesi's jaw ended the fight at 1:36 of the opening round.

The victory gave Clay-Bey, a 30-year-old corrections officer from Hartford, Conn., the final spot on the 12-man team. It culminated Clay-Bey's unlikely road to the Olympics, which began when he visited a local gym four years ago with hopes of losing weight.

"As I've said before, it wasn't a dream of mine to go to the Olympics when I started boxing. But now that it's happened, I feel very proud to represent my country," Clay-Bey said.

The second fight was the antithesis of Friday night, when Mesi and Clay-Bey slugged it out for three rounds.

"He forgot his strength, which is to box," said Joseph Zanders, who worked Clay-Bey's corner. "He landed some solid shots in Oakland [during a 17-4 victory over Mesi in the Olympic trials final]. He figured he could knock him out."

Clay-Bey went to a left-handed style from the start Saturday. The sequence that ended with the knockout began when Mesi threw a left jab and a right cross. Both missed. Clay-Bey then fired a right hook from a left-handed stance.

Mesi went down and tried to get up. But as his knees began to buckle and his head continued to bob, the referee called the fight.

The defeat sent Mesi looking for excuses. Mesi, whose threat of legal action helped get him a chance to fight in the Olympic trials, filed a protest.

Mesi claimed Clay-Bey's gauze wrap was longer than the legal limit of 11 yards. Turns out Clay-Bey's was 4 yards shorter than Mesi's, which was inches beyond the prescribed amount allowed.

"Did he protest anything else?" Zanders said.

"Is hitting too hard against the rules?"

Boxing Notes

In the two other fights decided in a final challenge bout, light flyweight champion Albert Guardado of Topeka, Kan., defeated Jauquin Gallardo of San Leandro, Calif., 23-11, and featherweight champion Floyd Mayweather beat Augustine Sanchez of Las Vegas, 20-10.

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