By Joseph Herron: On July 12th, 2008, Anthony Tyrone Thompson, who at the time was mandatory challenger for Wladimir Klitchko’s IBF Heavyweight title, had a date with destiny at the Color Line Arena in Hamburg, Germany; the same venue in which he earned his title opportunity by stopping German fighter Luan Krasniqi in the fifth round just a year prior to their title eliminator bout.
Although “The Tiger” fought valiantly and earned the respect of millions watching the fight worldwide, he failed to become the first American born heavyweight champion since 2004. Not only did he suffer his first defeat since 2000, he was knocked out for the first time in his entire professional career.
Since experiencing his only official defeat in over 10 years, Thompson has made his way back into heavyweight relevance by stringing together four straight knock-out victories, including wins against current American prospect Chazz Witherspoon and former Jamaican born prospect Owen Beck.
Tonight, the 39 year old Washington D.C. fighter faces opportunist Maurice “Sugar Moe” Harris on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights in Reno, NV, to see who faces Eddie Chambers later this year in an IBF heavyweight championship title eliminator bout.
Although both fighters, going into tonight’s bout, are enjoying a four fight win streak, the D.C. resident easily sports the more impressive resume.
Thompson has an impressive 35-2 record with 23 knock-outs, while journeyman Maurice Harris carries a meager 24-14-2 record with 10 knock-outs into the ring with him on Friday night.
So why has there been a sudden surge in media attention to journeyman Maurice Harris?
The 6’5” heavyweight contender explains.
“I actually fought Maurice Harris some years ago in the ‘Thunderbox’ Heavyweight
Tournament,” states Thompson. “He beat me in a three-rounder that did not go against our record. Now it’s an opportunity for me to get revenge, and I can guarantee he won’t beat me this time. I’ll stop him in six rounds or under.”
Despite the disparity of professional success between the two fighters, Thompson doesn’t plan to overlook his 35 year old opponent.
“I’ve been training for this fight for about eight weeks,” claims Thompson. “Mainly, I just want to keep a lot of pressure on Harris. You know, he’s been knocked out a few times. He had some head problems or something; that’s why he took time off. I want to give him reasons to remember that.”
Indeed Harris has suffered his share of knock-outs…ten times to be exact; including a humiliating 1st round one punch KO at the hands of Henry Akinwande back in 2001.
Still, the humble pugilist states that he cannot afford to look past anyone in the fight game. Tony desperately wants a return bout with the current IBF champ and is asking his American fight fans not to discount his chances of beating Wladimir Klitschko in a rematch.
“It would be a mistake to count me out,” proclaims the 39 year old southpaw. “All I can say is everyone counted Wladimir out after being stopped by Lamon Brewster, and all he’s done since then is to have nine successful title defenses.”
Although Thompson has been one of the more successful American pugilists over the last 5 years, at times American fight fans and media have held “The Tiger” at arm’s length. Why?
It could very well be for a variety of reasons:
The heavyweight division hasn’t been very popular since the invasion of the Klitschko brothers, and Thompson’s 2008 loss to Wladimir Klitschko could still be in the minds of his fans and detractors.
Also, Tony doesn’t seem to possess the kind of killer instinct and one punch knock-out power that American fight fans seem to look for in their heavyweight boxing icons.
Possibly, his inability to capture the imagination of the average fight fan is due in large part to what is perceived as his lack of passion for the fight game.
In a press conference before his title bout with the current IBF champion, Thompson was quoted as saying, “I really don’t like to train for boxing. I’m just good at it. It’s what I do to make a living. If I had my choices of making a living, I’m not one of those people who would say boxing…boxing was so far down the list for me.”
Although the always honest and humble Tony Thompson was simply being himself, most casual fight fans don’t seem to appreciate a prizefighter who does what he does simply for the “prize”, and not for the “fight”.
Tony has the skill, intelligence, and determination to go as far as he wants to in the sport of boxing. He has the mental and physical toughness to compete at the highest level of the sport.
But, does he want a championship bad enough to reach out and take it?
Perhaps “The Tiger” has more in his tank, than most realize.
We will find out tonight, when he takes his next step towards a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko.