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Jesse Hart wants a war with Joe Smith Jr: ‘I want excitement, that’s what I live for’

Jesse Hart doesn’t sound like he’s going to come to outbox Joe Smith Jr on Saturday, even if he knows that might be the smart plan.

Tyson Fury v Tom Schwarz Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

It wasn’t hard to listen and hear that light heavyweight Jesse Hart is sifting different info and counsel, and I think we have to wait until fight night to see if his heart or his head wins out on the Top Rank production tomorrow night on ESPN.

“I’m thinking about the game plan to dismantle Joe Smith,” Philadelphia’s Hart said when I inquired about his mindset during early fight week, as he counted down to a main event scrap in Atlantic City on Saturday, platforming on ESPN.

“To beat him into oblivion.”

Hart said he knows he needs to fight smart, not get caught up in an emotional state. He’s said that he feels some anger at Smith for the Long Islander’s handling of Bernard Hopkins in 2016.

Hart looks up to Hopkins, sees him as a big bro-type figure. But, he said, he knows that can’t be in his head when the bell rings in AC.

He is aiming for “obliteration,” but there are folks in his sphere who don’t want to hear that. They want him to fight smarter, not harder.

“That’s what I wanna do, that’s what’s deep in my heart, but everybody keep telling me to box,” Hart said. “But when you take punches, you take a gamble with this guy, one shot can end the fight. I’m a fighter that, if I feel somethin’ — if I win how everybody else want me to win, then I won’t be satisfied.

“And I keep telling people that, I will not be satisfied if I don’t win the way I wanna win. If I box, and make it easy, make it simple, then that won’t satisfy Jesse Hart. Yeah, get the win, but what good is a win if I don’t get it my way?”

Let’s be honest, put it out on the table: what he’s saying has to make Team Smith happy. They want a Hart (26-2, 21 KO) who is willing to gamble to look good, not just get the safety-route win at the Hard Rock. Fans, by and large, should hope that Hart follows his heart, and his desire to win with an exclamation point, and not smart-box his way to a safe victory.

We delved into it. Yes, more and more people counsel fighters to fight with defense front and center in the game plan. Hello, CTE. So, where does the propulsion to deliver a thriller win come from?

“I have to be in the middle of excitement,” he said. “I have to be on the edge of my seat, I have to be near death. That’s why I’m in boxing.”

Be the cunning guy, be wily, be safe — nah, he isn’t on board with that, he declares. In the furor, “there’s a chance you might be knocked out, there’s a chance you might knock him out.”

Outside the ring, he’s a normal guy, achingly so, it sounds like — like most of us.

He’s got a lady, a daughter, and a son born two months ago. For them, he wants to be stable and chill. But, he says, “I want some excitement, that’s what I live for, that’s what I thrive for.”

He had that before. Before the fam, he found thrills in street. But in the ring, it isn’t illicit, the buzz doesn’t come partly from the knowledge that he’s engaging in outlaw behavior. In AC, the buzz will come from dancing with danger and besting it, beating Smith to the punch, dodging one of his heavy artillery blasts and answering with his own savage toss.

Listen to more Hart, at the 17:52 mark, and really take in what he’s saying. He’s telling you why so many of these folks do this. It’s in his blood, he craves it. He desires this extreme dynamic; needs, he says, to look into the dark eyes of danger, hold the gaze, and make danger blink first.

In his mind, this is the game plan, and the result: “Beat him up, knock him out, make him quit.”

A rugged battle is what he envisions. And this made all the more clear, when I asked him if we could chat early next week, win or lose. Sure, if he’s healthy enough to do so, he said. As long as he’s not in the hospital, he said, he will talk with me again.

Tune in Saturday to see what wins out; the wisdom from those not in his shoes, or his own wild heart, that part of him that realizes, in the end, we are all dust, and so now and again in one’s life, one must politely yet forcefully ignore the outside voices of reason and just say, “Fuck it.”

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