BERN, Switzerland -- Every now and then, a young fighter appears on an undercard and catches your eye. Last March, I was in Düsseldorf, Germany, covering the heavyweight title fight between Wladimir Klitschko and Jean Marc Mormeck. On the untelevised undercard of that show was junior middleweight Tony Harrison, a 21-year-old prospect with a 1,000-watt smile trained by Emanuel Steward.
I didn’t think much of Harrison.
That is, until I saw him fight.
Harrison was a beast that night, dispatching an overmatched Harun Akcabelen in three lopsided rounds. It wasn’t just that Harrison won; it was the way he won, showcasing blurring speed, concussive power and sharp technique. For a kid less than a year into a pro career, it was a very impressive performance.
Harrison has a distinguished boxing pedigree. His grandfather, Henry Hank, was a fringe contender who fought notable opponents like Bob Foster and Jimmy Ellis. His father, Lloyd Harrison, also boxed. Tony wasn’t raised in a gym though; his boxing indoctrination came on the streets of Detroit, where Harrison said he fought “every other day.”
“Big kids, small kids, it didn’t matter,” Harrison said. “I was just always fighting. I was a 70-pound eight year old getting into fights. When my older brothers got into fights, I would find out who they were fighting and just rush them. There was something about it that I just loved.”
Eventually, Harrison’s parents had enough. They sent him to a local boxing gym where, Harrison said, “they tried to turn a negative into a positive.”
Harrison enjoyed boxing, but early on he wasn’t serious about it. A natural athlete, Harrison played other sports. When it wasn’t football it was basketball, when it wasn’t basketball it was track and when he had some spare time, he boxed. At 19, Harrison decided to get serious. He got an offer to move to California and train, but he wanted to stay in Detroit. So he called Steward, the godfather of Detroit boxing, and asked to work with him. Steward had been keeping an eye on Harrison over the years and agreed to take him on at his famed Kronk gym.
“I fought a lot of his guys,” Harrison said. “I guess he thought I had pro potential.”
Harrison has been moved along quickly. He turned pro last July and has fought seven times, winning each fight by knockout. Harrison is a long junior middleweight, spreading 154-pounds in a lean, 6-foot-1 frame. On Saturday night Harrison will go for win No. 8 when he takes on Flavio Turelli (10-5-2) on the untelevised undercard of Klitschko’s title defense against Tony Thompson (5 p.m. ET, Epix, EpixHD.com)
Harrison says he owes a lot to the Klitschko’s. This will be the third time he has fought on Wladimir’s undercard, netting him international exposure and, more importantly, valuable experience against European opponents.
“I’m getting different looks from all these international fighters,” Harrison said. “That’s going to pay off for me.”
Despite his age and inexperience, Harrison is eager for stiffer tests.
“I think I’m ready,” Harrison said. “I feel like I’m developing faster than others. I need a little more, but as far as skills, I’m ready. I have what it takes. My willpower, my desire, these guys I’m fighting are a cakewalk. There is only one person stopping me from being a multimillionaire, and that’s me. Emanuel drives the bus, I just ride in it. He has trained all these world champions. I’m going to be the next one.”