Exclusive Interview by Geoffrey Ciani – I was recently afforded the opportunity to have a nice chat with 21 year old junior middleweight prospect Tony Harrison (8-0, 8 KOs), who is slated to square off against Calvin Odom (15-11, 11 KOs) this Friday night at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California. The fight will be available on **FREE LIVE STREAM** as a part of Emanuel Steward’s Kronk Fight Night (CLICK HERE TO REGISTER ). Harrison spoke about his career, his upcoming match, and his future plans, and he also shared some views and opinions on the current boxing landscape. Here is a complete transcript from that interview:
GEOFFREY CIANI: Hello everyone. This is Geoffrey Ciani from East Side Boxing and I am joined by junior middleweight prospect Tony Harrison. How’s everything going today, Tony?
TONY HARRISON: Oh man, everything is all good, blessed. I woke up to see another day, so you know. There ain’t too much wrong, you know I’m just sitting in Cali waiting for fight day.
CIANI: Great! Now you have a fight, you just mentioned, this Friday night against Calvin Odom. How has your training and preparations been going for that?
HARRISON: Training went pretty well. We got a lot of fitness done, sharpened up, I’m in good shape, did a lot of strength and conditioning, and we are ready to roll! We’re ready to go on Friday.
***CLICK PLAYER TO LISTEN TO TONY HARRISON
(running time – 15:30)
CIANI: Now so far all of your fights have ended by knockout, and no fight of yours has gone even three full rounds yet. This fight coming up is scheduled for eight. Are you prepared to go that many rounds if need be?
HARRISON: I mean I definitely train to always go the rounds that I’m supposed to go. So if I’m supposed to go six rounds, I always train for the worst case scenario and that’s to go the six rounds. So now I’ve trained to go the eight rounds, but hopefully the outcome will be the same as the rest of them. But yes! I am trained to go the eight rounds. I have conditioned myself for the long run in this fight. So yes, I’m ready.
CIANI: Tony, what do you consider your greatest strength when you step inside the ring?
HARRISON: My greatest strength? My greatest strength I would say is my courage I think. There’s really nothing I’m scared of when I step in the ring. You know, me not fearing nothing, I have this killer instinct in me. I got so many good qualities I can’t even say what’s my best. When it comes to fighting, I think I’m stronger than the average 154 pounder. I’m more skilled than the average 154 pounder. I most definitely have one of the better trainers of any 154 pounder. It’s like there’s no fear in me. There’s nothing I’m scared of and I’m willing to take chances. So I guess my aggressiveness is a big part of my knockouts.
CIANI: Now you mentioned a moment ago your trainer. What’s it like training under the guidance of Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward?
HARRISON: To be honest it’s a blessing. It’s like if you’re playing college basketball playing for Calipari and the other guy is playing for a community college. That’s how the coaching is. It’s just a different type of level. It’s a different type of level because Emanuel has been there, he’s been to those stages, and he knows what to tell me when something goes wrong. There’s no scenario where Emanuel can’t tell me how to get out of that scenario. If I’m getting hit with jabs, he lets me know. If he sees that my conditioning is getting down, he says box. You know it’s like every scenario he has been in, because he has trained world fighter, after world fighter, after world fighter. It’s an advantage to me, because when I get in situations he can always tell me how to get out of those situations.
CIANI: Now I would assume that working with Emanuel, that you also have access to some pretty unique sparring opportunities over there at Kronk Gym. Can you tell the fans out there a little bit about some of your more challenging sparring sessions that you’ve had so far?
HARRISON: The most challenging one I would say was probably with Andy Lee. Not so much as far as the first time that we sparred, but after that, it seemed like he was so sharp! And Lee is such a sharp fighter. He’s such a crafty, and tricky, and lanky guy. He was just one of my sparring sessions where I wanted to keep sparring because I couldn’t catch a rhythm with him and I couldn’t get him too much down packed. But you know everybody has their ups and downs in that gym. Everybody has their qualities they bring into sparring. Like K-9 has the quality of strength that Andy Lee doesn’t have. Domonique Dolton has the quality of shapnress. Then you got William McElroy who has a combination of throwing many punches. You know everybody has like a different style for wherever you’re looking to fight. I can always find somebody in that gym to match whoever I am getting ready to fight. But as far as me having like the trickiest sparring partner, it would probably be Andy Lee. If not Andy Lee, it’s always going to be Klitschko because he’s just 100 pounds bigger than me, he’s taller than me, he’s stronger than me, and what’s crazy is he’s a big athletic guy! But he’s not even supposed to count because he’s just that much bigger than me. So he don’t even count, but besides him it would probably be Andy Lee.
CIANI: Tony, when you started your professional career last July, you kicked off your career, you had three knockouts that month, and then you had a fight in October. But after that you didn’t have another fight until March of this year. What was it like having that five month break, especially after you got off to such a quick start with so many fights grouped together real quickly?
HARRISON: I mean it was very frustrating. It was frustrating financially, because you know I needed to fight to get money. But it was also frustrating because it was like I was in the gym, but for that five months I couldn’t buy a fight. I couldn’t get guys to fight me, and the guy that did want to fight me wanted too much money to fight me. You know as of right now, it’s just me and Emanuel, so with Emanuel it really comes out of pocket. The guy that wants this type of money, it’s kind of hard when it’s just me and Emanuel. So it was real frustrating, but great things happen to people who are patient. We sat back and we just waited. We stayed training, and now we’re back on that streak. I have had about six fights in a row, so we’re back on that streak. Hopefully I don’t get to have another drought how I had in the beginning.
CIANI: Can you tell the fans out there, Tony, a little bit about how you first got involved in the sport of boxing?
HARRISON: I first got involved with boxing when I was in middle school, at Winfield Middle School. I used to get suspended so much for just street fighting all of the time. You know my brother never really was like a fighter type of guy. Every time he would get into a fight, you know I would get into a fight. I was so little, but I was so aggressive. There was something about fighting that just sparked my interest. It didn’t matter how old you were or how big you were. I used to always get suspended for fighting in middle school, and my mom just so happened to tell my dad when day when I was about 8, if he keeps getting suspended in school take that negative energy and put it in some positive energy. So he finally put me in the gym and I never looked back.
CIANI: When you look at the current boxing landscape today, and you see everything that boxing has to offer right now, who are some of the fighters out there that you most admire and why?
HARRISON: I admire Manny Pacquiao a lot because I mean it’s like there’s no limit to who he will fight, what weight he will fight. It just really doesn’t matter to him. I like him. I like Amir Khan, because Amir Khan is willing to take 50%. He doesn’t care about the money. He wants boxing to come back. I figure boxing is really in his heart because he really loves boxing. He wants boxing to be the sport that it used to be. He’s willing to compromise with anybody, any time, any way, at any price. People like that are good for boxing. I look up to people like that, because they got the kind of heart that I think I got, and I’m willing to do the same thing these guys are doing. I admire Floyd Mayweather for coming up and taking the fight with Cotto, which I thought would never happen. But he came up and took the fight. You know he showed that he’s still there. He’s still here to make noise in the boxing ring. You know anybody that would take a step up in big fights who are willing to bring boxing back to where boxing used to be. Chad Dawson and Andre Ward, Chavez and Martinez—all of these fights are good for boxing, and they are the best at their weight classes. Now they’re stepping down in weight or up in weight to make big fights, and this is what boxing needs.
CIANI: As a young fighter Tony, you’ve already had out of your eight fights, you had a couple of fights over in Germany, and you had another fight in Switzerland. How have these experiences been like for you fighting outside the United States?
HARRISON: My overseas experiences I think are the best experiences, because overseas fighters are actually getting a lot better than it used to be back in the day. If you look at the heavyweight rankings, it used to be Mike Tyson, it used to be Evander Holyfield, and it used to be more US fighters. But now it’s Vitali Klitschko, Wladimir Klitschko, Tomasz Adamek, Povetkin—you know everybody is from overseas. There are more overseas fighters making a bigger impact on boxing than it used to be back in the day. Being that I’m starting my career fighting these guys that are overseas, it gives me the opportunity to get the looks that overseas fighters are having, because they definitely don’t have an American style of fighting.
So by me fighting overseas earlier in my career, by the time I get to my higher in my career I have already known these styles of fighting by fighting over in Switzerland, and Germany, and Düsseldorf, and all of these other different countries that the average prospect in the United States won’t get a chance to face, because they’re signing with Golden Boy or Top Rank. They only fight inner-city or inner-country. So they only get inner-country exposure. With me fighting in front of 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 fans overseas, it gives me international exposure, it gives me a different style of fighting than an American style of fighting, and I think it plays a big part.
You know Paulie Malignaggi just went over there and won the belt from an overseas fighter, but this is probably his first time fighting over there. But with me in the situation I have, I have already fought these styles of fighters. I think it will be even better for me, because these judges that are over there have already seen me. They’ve seen my face three or four times. It’s just harder for them to rob me because they have seen my face a lot. They’re like, “Oh this Tony Harrison guy, this is just like his second home. You know he’s part of us”. So it’s all good, and I love fighting overseas because of the environment, and the people are so much better over there. They treat you amazing, and it’s a wonderful experience, and I wouldn’t want to be with anybody but Emanuel because he opened up so many doors that I never in life thought I would be in.
CIANI: Now you’re 21 years old. You have your whole professional boxing career in front of you. What would you ultimately like to accomplish before all is said and done in your boxing career?
HARRISON: I just want to change and have an impact on boxing, period! I want to win a world title, be able to provide for my family, and bring good boxing back to Detroit, you know back to the Joe Louis Arena where it damn near originally started. It’s where Joe Louis used to fight. Mike Tyson even used to fight there. You know Ali used to fight there. I want to bring all that back to the city of Detroit, and bring the boxing in Detroit because there are a lot of people who love boxing, but it’s taken away because everything is only happening when the promoters let it happen. Or the fighters only want to fight in Vegas. So I just want to change. I want to make an impact and bring big boxing back to Detroit. You know with Emanuel, he thinks we can change that. So that’s one of the major plans that we got on our agenda for right now.
CIANI: For my final question, what is your official prediction for your fight this Friday night?
HARRISON: A prediction? Knockout! That’s the only way we know, and under five, definitely under five. Definitely! I’m going to definitely try to keep that promise. As a matter of fact, under four! I ain’t even going to put him at five. I’m giving him too much credit by putting him at five. So under four rounds, we’re looking for under four rounds. That’s it.
CIANI: Tony, it was a great pleasure getting the opportunity to speak to you. I wish you the best of luck this Friday night, and of course going forward in the future.
HARRISON: Thank you, and it was a pleasure to do the interview. Any time that East Side Boxing wants to call Tony Harrison, you know they always have my number on speed dial. They can always give me a call, and I can always give the fans a different side of Tony Harrison and a different way to know Tony Harrison.
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