It's been a tough few months for Rankin boxer Monty Meza-Clay.
In November, boxing officials denied him the chance to fight for a championship belt. And on Jan. 29, Clay suffered a controversial technical knockout to Jorge Solis in Guadalajara, Mexico -- Solis' hometown.
"It hurt my feelings more than anything," says Clay, a featherweight who was the subject of a May 2008 City Paper profile. "I had this guy earlier in the fifth round. I had him hurt. Then he comes back at me and he hit me with a good shot, but I was still moving, still defending myself." Nevertheless, the referee stopped the bout in the fifth round giving Solis the TKO.
Clay says, "It was a terrible stoppage," and he isn't the only one who thought so. Referees are supposed to stop a contest when continuing the fight would be dangerous to the boxer.
"While Meza Clay was buzzed, it looked like he still had most of his wits about him as he ducked and dodged the incoming fire," read a report on the well-known boxing blog, The Fight Bulletin. "A couple shots definitely did land clean, but most either missed or were glancing blows, and it looked like Meza-Clay may have had a case."
Had Clay won, he would have landed a shot at the International Boxing Federation's featherweight title. The loss came on the heels of another setback -- this one outside the ring.
Last fall, Clay had been ranked the No. 1 contender by the World Boxing Organization. Clay expected that ranking would entitle him to a shot at the champion, WBO featherweight champ Steve Luevano. But by an 11-4 vote, the WBO gave the challenge to another fighter, Rocky Juarez, instead.
Meza-Clay says the WBO picked Juarez because "he was more of a name, but how am I supposed to build up my name if they take away chances like that?"
Juarez, a super featherweight (130 pounds) was going to drop four pounds to face Luevano. The fight had drawing power because Juarez had defeated Luevano, now 36-1, when the two were amateurs. Unfortunately for Clay, not only did he lose his mandatory status, but Juarez didn't take the fight because the champ and challenger couldn't come to terms.
The loss to Solis is Clay's second overall, and his first in eight fights. Of his first defeat, to Edner Cherry, Clay says, "He beat me. If I get beat, I'll admit to it with no excuses." But in Guadalajara, he says, "I felt like was I robbed, because it was obvious to everyone that I could have kept going."
Clay admits that he wasn't himself in the Solis fight. Less than a week before the fight, Clays says he was nine or 10 pounds overweight. To meet his required 126 pounds, he says, he didn't eat for 48 hours before his weigh-in.
"That's on me," says Clay. "About four or five weeks out, I was just about three pounds away from 126, so I thought, 'No sweat.' I wasn't as particular as I normally am about what I shove in my mouth that close to a fight. The next thing I know, the fight's a week away and I'm 10 pounds over.
"And that's what bothers me about this fight. I was 40 percent of my normal self and I was still beating him. If I had been 100 percent, he wouldn't have stood a chance."
Clay says he's impatient for his next fight. He wants to line up a bout in April or May. And he wants a top competitor.
"I don't have time for a warm-up fight with a tomato can," says Clay, using boxing jargon for a lesser fighter. "I got titles to win and money to make. That's what boxing is about -- taking the best fight with the best guy.
"And since I lost, there are going to be top guys taking a fight with me thinking I'm an easy fight, that I'm the warm-up. And hey, if you want to think that, then by all means think that. We'll see how long you think that once the fight starts."