“Albanian Bear” Has Eyes on More

Rich Mancuso

Reshat Mati always remembers putting boxing gloves on his hands at the young age of four. His father (Adrian) saw immediately that passion for boxing. Staten Island born and raised by an Albanian family, the 25-year old hasn’t stopped after a successful amateur career, undefeated as a professional, (14-0, 8KO’s) and he believes this is the beginning.

A beginning to win that elusive championship that many fighters have tried and failed to gain. Boxing can be a tough and nasty sport. Some will say why take the punches? This is no way to make a living and is short lived with a championship belt not a guarantee.

But from the beginning, his Albanian born father gave that incentive and motivation to continue. He is known as the “Albanian Bear ”, a nickname that stuck, though no resemblance of hibernating in a hole for the Winter. This is boxing and the bear resemblance comes in the ring when Mati attacks opponents with his punches.

He can fight and Friday evening in the Theater at Madison Square Garden, Mati will have a contingent of hometown fans cheering his name as the quest to become a mix in the junior welterweight title (140) picture division continues, The challenge is Irving Macias- 8-rounds, (15-4,10 KO’s) a tough Mexican who can also take a punch and deliver one as well.

Mati fights prior to the co and main event of a Garden boxing card on St. Patrick’s Day weekend with Tom Loeffler and 360 Promotions, the second time in five months with their UFC Fightpass venture.. Undefeated Super Welterweight Callum Walsh (9-0, 7 KO’s), the Irish knockout artist headlines the second consecutive 360 Promotions card.

Social media plays a part unfortunately,” he commented about getting a mandatory title opportunity after making weight Thursday afternoon.”Rest of these fights I have to make a statement. You guys can’t dodge me any more.”

Mati wasn’t satisfied with Matchroom Boxing where he previously was an undercard fighter, though there were no hard feelings when he took an opportunity to fight for a new promoter. And in this challenging sport taking chances and seeking a ranking at times requires a change.

Fighting in New York does not hurt his chances and exposure is assured because 360 and Loeffler have aligned with UFC Fightpass, the major promoter of MMA events world wide under Dana White. Mati regularly stays in shape in between fights and continues his longtime relationship with his training base at the reputed Cops & Kids facility in Brooklyn.

But that rise to contention has been a struggle. In between there have been a few setbacks of injuries and boxing promoters disrupted during the COVID year. But Mati has been resilient in a sport that at times can be frustrating for a fighter.

I never really considered myself a prospect,” he says. “A veteran in a prospect body. “ I feel a little behind, a little short because of injuries, change of promoters. And after COVID started all over again. Now it’s time to go to work. If you count all the fights I’ve been through, it’s like another day in the business.”

Or another day in the ring for the young and rising star. His fight Friday evening is not in that make or break mode, but a win is important to continue his quest. The junior welterweight division is stocked with young talent and champions like Teofimo Lopez. There is Ryan Garcia, and champion Devin Haney fighting for the titles April 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a spectacle for a boxing fan and the sport.

Keep fighting at same time, gotta wait for the right opportunity,” he said with a championship look. “ Once I get the opportunity can’t let it go. I’m ready for the big fights now. Fought guys at the top so I’m ready.”

There is a strategy for Friday evening, though talk to a fighter and they will never reveal what is the plan to overtake an opponent. Mati has a plan and will wait for the bell to ring in round one.

Overall mind game,” he says. “See what bothers him, see what works for me and what works for him Try and wear him down and use my speed. Gotta figure what he likes to do.”

And the Garden will not be strange. Mati has been in the historic ring four other times including last July under the Matchroom banner where he connected and got the 9th round knockout over Dakota Linger. The Garden also has that reputation of a venue where champions have made history in their sport.

All I do is finish this fight and move forward,” Mati said. “End of the year finish undefeated.” Something says “The Albanian Bear” had that undefeated streak in the plan when he put those gloves on for the first time.

Rich Mancuso: X (Formerly Twitter) @Ring786 Facebook.com/ Rich Mancuso

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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