The messages were sent through the walk-up songs.
Mike Guy, the challenger from Sacramento, Calif., walked out to Philly rapper Meek Mill’s “Dreams & Nightmares,” at 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia.
Jesse Hart walked out to Young Jeezy’s “My Hood” as he stopped by the front row and greeted friends and family on his way to the ring.
It was a fight of opposites in physical stature, and that theme carried on through the night. The 40-year-old Guy, a stocky 5-foot-8 fighter, fought on the inside and constantly forced his way forward. Hart, standing 6-3, used his ring movement to create space to use his power on his punches.
Hart’s style won out in the end. After a 20-month layoff, Hart (27-3, 21 KOs) defeated Guy via unanimous decision in an eight-round super middleweight contest. Judges scored it 80-72, 79-73, 79-73.
“I felt OK, but I felt like my timing was off by a lot,” said the 32-year-old Hart. “I could see shots that I was supposed to take, but I couldn’t catch him fast enough.”
This wasn’t peak Hart. It’s hard for any fighter to return after 20 months and go down from light heavyweight to 168 pounds. Hart said his weight had gotten up to as much as 210 since his last fight.
“Considering the circumstances, I think I did good,” Hart said.
Hart showed excellent ring movement, especially as the fight went on, but Guy (12-7-1, 5 KOs) was the perfect return opponent. He pressured Hart, challenging what many believed is his biggest weakness by fighting him on the inside.
Guy said that he wanted to rough it up. In no round was that more apparent than the fourth. Guy sprinted forward quickly after the bell rung and Hart backed up toward the corner before taking control in the middle of the ring. A lot of grabbing ensued. Before both fighters went back to their corners, there was a brief stare-down.
“He tried to intimidate me a little bit, but he couldn’t,” Hart said. “He’s a crafty vet.”
By the sixth round, all of the constant clinching had shown on the referee as much as the fighters. His light-blue shirt was drenched with blood stains down his right arm from separating the boxers.
Hart’s best round may have been the seventh. He connected on more of his punches as Guy went into survival mode.
RDR Promotions, which staged Friday night’s card, will have its most enticing all-Philly fight when undefeated welterweights Mark Dawson and Paul Kroll meet in November. Hart is expected to be on that card in a potential co-main event, but he isn’t sure yet. His trainer, Fred Jenkins, said that Hart has to stay active to get his timing yet, but the team is unsure on the Nov. 27 date.
In Friday’s main event, junior welterweight Samuel Teah made quick work of Larry Fryers with a first-round technical knockout. The card featured seven fights with three wins via stoppage and four decisions.
Hart hugged his father, former middleweight contender Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, shortly after his fight, and his daughter joined him in the ring. Those moments, combined with the “Jesse” chants at certain moments during the match, made the homecoming fight exactly how Hart envisioned it.
“I think that was dope,” Hart said. “My whole neighborhood was out there. The more and more I’m active, the more I’ll get better.”