Percy Harris, a tall, gifted, and hard-working middleweight who, in his own words, “left his best stuff and was burnt out in the amateurs,” had just 19 pro fights. Still, “No Mercy” left his mark on the sport nonetheless. Not many fighters can say they faced a young Bernard Hopkins and a young Roy Jones Junior.
Harris can, and what’s more, he is adamant he defeated Hopkins when they met in the summer of 1990.
Harris, who exited with a 15-4(9) record in early 1993, has some story to tell and he kindly does so here for the benefit of Eastside Boxing readers:
Q: First of all, Percy, what was your amateur record?
Percy Harris: “I had about 140 amateur fights, with, I think, eight losses. I should actually have turned pro in 1984 or ’85 (instead of 1989). I left it too late. I went pro at age 25, but my best years were at the amateur level. I should have turned pro at age 20. I do say that as an amateur, I was unbeatable.”
Q: You boxed in that USA vs. Russia amateur tournament in 1985, which was shown live on ABC. Your fight, your win over the Russian guy, Ayslbek Kilimov, was judged the best fight of the night.
P.H: “It was a great fight. They actually were not going to show it, but the fight got that much attention. They had to show my fight. Then as a pro, I won my belt, the IBF inter-continental middleweight title, in Italy.”
Q: When you beat an undefeated Thomas Tate. A great win for you.
P.H: “That was my best win. I beat him with ease, I really did. And do you know – I took that fight all by myself! What I mean is, I went to Italy; they called me five days before the fight, and I had nobody in my corner. I literally had to get my corner together when I was out there – honest truth.
But myself, I never really loved boxing. My dad got me into it, pushed me really, at age 9. I never loved it – I had to box. But when you do something for so long, you get good at it. Boxing, to me, it was like walking, talking.
But I never did love it. I got out at age 29, so that’s 20 long years. And when I got out of boxing, it was so great. Even now, not having to do it, it’s like Christmas Day every day. Boxing was programmed into me. It’s so tough. The Roy Jones fight at the end, I took that for the money; I wasn’t in shape. I lost that fight, and I walked away, and I never looked back.”
Q: You also fought a young Bernard Hopkins, in what was your ninth fight?
P.H: “Let me tell you about the Hopkins fight – hear me out. I beat Bernard Hopkins, right there in his backyard in Philly (the fight actually took place in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on the undercard of the Ray Mercer-Bert Cooper slugfest).
I wouldn’t lie to you. I tell the truth: I got beat bad by Jones, but I beat Hopkins. I lost all four rounds against Jones, but I won all six rounds against Hopkins. I beat Bernard from round one to round six, like a father beats a child! Okay, to be absolutely fair, the first round was even, but the next five rounds, it was all me.”
Q: How great was Jones, and how great was Hopkins?
P.H: “Well, for the Jones fight, I wasn’t in shape. He beat me clearly, but I did want a rematch with Jones. He had speed and power; he really did – he was an A-class fighter. I know how taking shots is bad for you, and I knew after that fight that it was time for me to go.
I left boxing, and it was the happiest day of my life. I’m 57 now, and I left boxing at age 29. It’s a tough business. Today, I run a bar and a nightclub, and I play a lot of golf. I mean it when I say it, too – golf is the toughest sport in the world. You have to have so much skill, dedication, and a willingness to learn. Boxing is easy next to golf. I’m way happier today, out of boxing. I have a son, and no way would I ever let him be a boxer.
“But Jones, his speed and power, he was sharp and super-quick, he was special. He was a good deal younger than me. But I did, I took that fight for the money, and I wasn’t in shape. But I’d say this – Jones, hands down, is the better fighter of the two. Hopkins, I really did beat him in his backyard. I beat him up – you go and ask him. He won’t talk about that fight. But tell Roy Jones, tell him I still want that rematch, even now!”
Q: How do you rate the sport today?
P.H: “These guys today, yeah, they fight once a year. If I’d did that, I’d have never lost! But my best years went in the amateur career I had. Myself and Mark Breland, we gave our best to the amateur program. I should have gone pro sooner than I did. But I can’t look back. I’m happy. I got out with my brains, with my ability to talk. I spent enough time in boxing.”