Standing Eight: Tony Harrison

The WBC World Super Welterweight Champion gives an update on the Jermell Charlo rematch and his plans to rule the 154-pound division.

WBC World Super Welterweight Champion Tony Harrison says he isn’t looking past Jermell Charlo, he’s looking through him.

Harrison aims to stop Charlo in their anticipated rematch with an eye toward a unification against IBF/WBA counterpart Julian Williams, whom he expects to win a return bout against Jarrett Hurd.

The 28-year-old Harrison (28-2, 21 KOs) dethroned Charlo (32-1, 16 KOs) by close unanimous decision in December at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. An ankle injury sidelined Harrison for a scheduled June rematch against Charlo. He now expects that fight to occur in November or December.

Nicknamed “Super Bad” by the late and legendary trainer Emanuel Steward, his lead corner man in four of his first 11 bouts, Harrison’s Superbad Fitness Boxing Gym serves as a refuge for inner-city youth, who he also coaches football and for whom he has a basketball program.

How is life in Detroit as the WBC 154-pound champion?

It’s been a surreal feeling. When you’ve chased something for so long and you finally achieve your goal, it’s the fulfillment of a lifetime dream.

Being on national television, now, I’m an example to that kid who can now have that dream of becoming something when he may not otherwise envision ever getting out of the city of Detroit.

I believe that God put me on this earth for that specific reason, and I’m striving to continue on that path he’s chosen for me to walk.

Can you assess your performance against Jermell Charlo?

I wasn’t intimidated by Jermell. A lot of guys he’s fought were scared of him going into their fight. But he could look into my eyes and he could see that my talk entering the fight was as good as my walk in the fight. I had earned his respect from Day One.

Watching him in his fight with John Jackson, where lateral movement was killing him and he was behind on the cards before getting the knockout, I knew for sure I was three times the boxer John Jackson is when it comes to my skill set.  I knew I could maneuver and jab on him.

But when you’re Jermell Charlo and you’re knocking everybody out, you’re thinking you’re gonna knock out Tony Harrison. But after the third round and he hadn’t gotten to me, it became a self-confidence thing. I started to see the frustration and panic within him and his corner. Jermell became desperate.

What was your training injury which aborted the rematch?

I was sparring, my shoes were a little untied, and I stepped into a little crack in the seam of the ring and twisted my right ankle three weeks before the fight.  I was limping a little bit and couldn’t put pressure on it. I went home and put ice on it, but by the next morning, it had blown up like a balloon.

I knew something was wrong. So I went and got it checked out and the doctor said I had torn ligaments on both sides. When it comes to movement, I need that the most, and I wouldn’t have been able to function well. They advised me not to fight.

I went back and told my Dad and my brother for three days how badly I wanted to fight, but I couldn’t run in order to lose weight and my mobility was limited, so they told me to pull out of the fight. Nobody cares if you step into that ring with an injury and you lose.

I think the rematch happens this year although I don’t know where or when. Possibly November or December. I am kind of guesstimating. My preference would be Detroit, but it’s probably gonna be in New York or Las Vegas.

I dominated [Jermell Charlo] the first time, now, I’m looking to knock him out. WBC World Super Welterweight Champion - Tony Harrison

What was your impression of Jermell Charlo’s knockout of Jorge Cota?

I think Jermell did what he was supposed to do, and that’s what I like is the fact that he believes that he showed the world that Jermell Charlo is back. I’m ready to fight him right now.  I think if I push forward and let my hands go a little more, that I’ll stop him.

With all of the talk of Jermell saying he won, there were three judges and they all say I won.  So I don’t pay any attention to what he says at all. He’s delusional. There’s some part of his f--king brain that he’s missing up there.

I dominated him the first time, now, I’m looking to knock him out. He believes that he’s the bigger, stronger man, but I’m going into this fight with so much more confidence.  I can beat him any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

How does it feel to overcome two KO losses to become a world champion?

Where I come from, you constantly have to overcome things and circumstances that can bring you down. So, I just continued to defy the odds, taking every fight, dominating [former champion] Ishe Smith unlike anybody to that point.

I’ve never turned down a fight, and my path was never an easy one, but I never lacked self-confidence. Every time I’d look at the boxing rankings, I’d develop a chip on my shoulder because I’d see guys above me who I knew were not better than me.

Who wins Williams-Hurd II?

I think I was ahead six rounds to none against Jarrett Hurd, and I think Julian Williams beats Hurd again because of his skills. I believe my skills are a little better than Julian’s because when he leaves the ring, he’s got a black eye and cuts.

Our fight would be the Philly style against the Detroit style.  Julian has a fan-friendly style, but I like walking outta the ring without a scratch on my face. Skill-for-skill, I see myself and Julian as the best in the division.

How are you shaped by your Detroit childhood and the legacy of the late Hall of Fame trainer, Emanuel Steward, who called you “Super Bad?”

Detroit made me the champion I already was in life before I became one in the ring. My struggles in life helped me to prepare for my struggles in the ring.

Emanuel Steward was the lead corner man and a major influence early in my career, but I fought in every gym in Detroit before I ended up at the legendary Kronk.

Then I started my own gym. So I’m an advocate for every boxing gym in the city. I fight for the entire city of Detroit. I’m at a point where I’m confident that I can beat anybody.

How important is the guidance of your father, trainer and former pro boxer, Ali Salaam?

Growing up, I had good role models like my father who encouraged me to stay strong and remain on the right path, not only toward becoming a boxer but toward growth as a man, father and, now, a mentor to kids in the city of Detroit.

My gym is located on Puritan Street on Detroit’s west side, which is a war zone and a struggle every day.  It’s drug- and crack-infested and there is violence all around. It’s survival of the fittest for the people who live there.

Our program has tutoring in math and reading done by my girlfriend, Jasmine Bradley, who is a University of Michigan graduate. She’s amazing -- aspiring to become a doctor and the mother of my three-year-old son, Tony Jr., and my one-year-old old daughter, Jaia.

We started football teams which were the Michigan Bulldogs and now the Detroit Buckeyes. I coach the 13- to 15-year-olds. We also have a basketball team, trying to keep these kids active year-round knowing how easy it is to take one wrong turn that could mean the end of your life or someone else’s.

For a closer look at Tony Harrison, check out his fighter page.

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