Knockout artist Tony Harrison learning to balance power and poise

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Punching power is the athletic equivalent of an open bar: It’s totally, totally awesome, but if you get carried away with it, you could wake up naked in a field, searching for your pants and the nearest burrito dispensary.

Tony Harrison

Tony Harrison vows to be more disciplined against Cecil McCalla on Saturday night than he was against Willie Nelson in July, when he was stopped in the ninth round. (Lucas Noonan/Premier Boxing Champions)

OK, so maybe we stretched the analogy there just a tad, confusing it with the aftermath of one of our typical Saturday nights. But the point is, raw power can be a blessing and a curse for a boxer, something that’s intoxicating for fighters and fans alike—but like most intoxicants, it can become poisonous.

Tony Harrison (21-1, 18 KOs) knows all about the promise and potential pitfalls of possessing fists hard enough to have been carved from the trunk of a maple tree. The Detroit native churns out knockouts with the frequency of one of those Nigerian princes spamming you for cash.

Prior to his last fight, a tough defeat to fellow 154-pound contender Willie Nelson in July, Harrison had stopped six fighters in a row and nine of his previous 10.

About that loss: Harrison was ahead on the scorecards in the ninth round when he began pressing the action in a slow fight, looking for the knockout—only to get caught and knocked out himself.

He knows he has to be more patient and not get in the habit of looking for that single fight-ending blow, no matter how tempting it may be.

In training camp, Harrison says this is seldom an issue. Come fight night, though, this showman wants to put on a show.

“In the gym, I’m a work of art when it comes to throwing combinations and using my legs. I spar with guys and I throw eight, nine shots, and they look beautiful,” Harrison says. “And then I get to the fight and I’m like, ‘Aaarghh.’ I feel myself pressing my teeth into my mouthpiece like I’m about to bite through it, because I’m trying so hard to hit him with that one good shot.

“I’m getting better at it, though,” he continues. “The first thing is knowing that my mistakes are my own, without somebody telling me. I’m learning on my own. I’m my own student right now.”

Currently, class is back in session as Harrison prepares to take on Cecil McCalla (20-2, 7 KOs) on Saturday night (NBCSN, 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT) in his first fight since his only loss.

“I’m working my legs a little more, putting combinations together," he says. "I tend to find myself throwing a lot of single shots, because I trust it. I believe in the power so much that you tend to one-shot-Charlie everything. I’m starting to put the shots together, run combinations and wait for the knockout instead of going after it so much.”

These days, Harrison wants to be the opposite of his rock-solid fists: fluid as the sweat beading up on the other guy's brow.

“I was once at a point in my career where I was just so hungry to be something and to prove something, and now I’m just like, ‘Let it flow,’” he says. “From here, you’re going to see a great, complete fighter. I think this is going to be my most disciplined fight.”

For full coverage of Harrison vs McCalla, visit our fight page.

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