EIGHT WEEKS AGO, after a controversial double-tiebreaker loss to Terrell Gausha at the USA National Championships in Fort Carson, Colo., ended his dream of representing his country at this summer's London Olympics, a bitterly disappointed Jesse Hart hinted that he might be through with boxing forever.
"Right now, I don't think I'll ever fight again," said the 22-year-old North Philadelphian. "I don't even know about the pros."
But they say that time heals all wounds, and the signing of a lucrative contract and a chance to make your professional debut on one of boxing's biggest stages make a great salve.
"They made me an offer I couldn't confuse," an obviously pleased Hart said of the promotional arrangement he has agreed to with Top Rank. He will make his pro debut June 9 against an opponent to be announced at Las Vegas' MGM Grand, on the undercard of a show headlined by the WBO welterweight title defense by Manny Pacquiao against challenger Timothy Bradley.
Hart, who will be trained by his father, former middleweight contender Eugene "Cyclone" Hart, said the venue is especially significant since his dad, who compiled a 30-9-1 mark with 28 knockout victories, fought almost exclusively in Philly and made it to Vegas.
"This is Dad's dream," said Hart, who added that it was "big, real big" to be getting the opportunity to appear on such a prestigious a card as the one topped by Pacquiao-Bradley.
Top Rank founder Bob Arum said, "We hope Jesse will be a future superstar, which will make all of us, including his father, very proud."
Winner of the 2011 National Golden Gloves at 165 pounds and the 2011 USA National Championships at 178, Hart - who is co-managed by Doc Nowicki and David Price _ will fight as a middleweight, for now. He and wife Starletto Brayboy-Hart are expecting their first child, a daughter to be named Halo, in August.
- Bernard Fernandez