The return of a prominent local boxer highlights a look back at the local boxing circuit over the past 12 months.

The recent news regarding the future of former heavyweight contender “Baby Joe” Mesi of Tonawanda was unexpected and surprising, with a ruling Monday out of Las Vegas that allows Mesi to return to the ring.

The World Boxing Council’s top-ranked contender at 29-0 when he was sidelined by bleeding on the brain, Mesi, 32, was banned from fighting anywhere in the United States when his license was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

However, a Nevada state judge ruled that Mesi’s medical suspension expired when his Nevada boxing license expired last Dec. 31.

“Anything’s possible at this point, but it’s just too soon to tell when or where I’ll be fighting first,” Mesi, 32, said. “Right now, I’m just happy to put the gloves back on. I understand they want to keep me safe, but I’m not sure they understood my side.

“This took so long and it cost us so much, but we did prevail. Under the Constitution, they can’t prevent me from boxing,” Mesi said.

Mesi’s immediate plans include a trip to a warm-weather climate, probably either Houston or Puerto Rico, where he plans to begin training immediately. More definitive plans on where and when Mesi will resume his career are expected to be announced in March.

“Under the law, we can apply (to fight) anywhere we want,” said Mesi’s father and manager, Jack Mesi.

“We want to fight home, first and foremost, but a lot of factors will enter into that decision. It’s going to depend on Joe’s trainers and conditioning.

“I’m guessing he could be ready in eight to 10 weeks,” Jack Mesi said.

n The future of young Niagara Falls professional Nick Casal appears to be headed back on track..

Casal, 20, a junior welterweight, improved to 12-0 with a unanimous decision over Jose Roman at the St. Pete Times Forum on Aug. 6 — but then things changed.

A June 16 unanimous-decision victory was changed to a “no-decision” when it was revealed Casal had tested positive for cocaine following that victory. A six-month suspension was also levied on Casal, which expired Dec. 13.

Casal will return to the ring Jan. 20 in California in an eight-rounder that will be televised by SHOWBOX.

Casal remains ranked 37th in the world in his class.

“He’s been training pretty hard,” said Ray Casal, Nick’s father and trainer. “He wants to come back and show everyone that he’s still the fighter he always was. After a couple of fights, everyone is going to see that he’s back on track.”

n Lockport’s Joey Morales, 16, won the Niagara District United States Championship Box-Offs qualifying boxing tournament recently, fighting out of the junior welterweight (132-141) novice division.

Boxing out of the Lock City Boxing Club, Morales (2-0) is trained by former Golden Gloves champion Rob D’Angelo, assisted by former heavyweight contender Hall of Famer Tony Ventura, both of Lockport.

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