It’s time to feast, and Tony Harrison’s talking appetites—not for food, but for that which puts food on the table: wins. He’s doing so because he’s about to face a man who, metaphorically speaking, is hungry enough to eat a horse chased by a rotisseried yeti.
On Saturday at NRG Arena in Houston, Tony Harrison (21-1, 18 KOs) squares off with Cecil McCalla (20-2, 7 KOs), who’s coming off two straight defeats after winning the first 20 fights of his career.
McCalla didn’t lose to nobodies: He was bested by former 154-pound champ Ishe Smith in April, and three months prior to that he dropped a split decision to Chris van Heerden, the rugged Aussie who hung tough with Errol Spence Jr. in September before eventually getting stopped when his face began to take on the consistency of a bowl of stewed tomatoes.
Nevertheless, McCalla is at a crossroads in his career: Another ‘L’ on his record will make it difficult for him to continue to land televised matchups like this one (NBCSN, 11 p.m. ET/9 p.m. PT).
McCalla, who weighed in at 155.5 Friday for the 156-pound bout, is fighting for his future—and a desperate man is like a blindfolded toddler running with garden shears: a danger both to others and himself.
“I think that hunger is going to be his downfall in the fight,” says Harrison, who hit the scale Friday at 156 pounds. “When somebody’s hungry, they come to fight. Those are the kind of fights I look forward to. Those are the fights where I look my best. It brings the best out of me.”
McCalla, a shoulder-rolling defensive-minded fighter, presents another interesting stylistic matchup for Harrison, who will be fighting for the fourth time this year.
In March, Harrison steamrolled onetime highly touted prospect Antwone Smith, then blasted bronco-wild southpaw Pablo Munguia six weeks later, dispatching both in a grand total of five rounds.
But then in July, Harrison suffered his first defeat against skilled counterpuncher Willie Nelson, a much more deliberate fighter who caught the Detroit native with a right hand in Round 9 and earned a stoppage in a fight Harrison was winning on the scorecards at the time.
And so Harrison’s fought brawlers and technicians alike in the past 10 months. What he’s focused on currently is being more consistent against fighters of all stripes.
“I think I do a very good job of adapting,” he says of the range of opponents he’s clashed with this year. “Now, the big part is just keep staying disciplined through the whole fight. That’s the attribute that I’m adding: being that 12-round fighter, not that four-round knockout fighter.
“I’m not looking for any gimmes,” he continues. “I’m looking for a way to get back up to where I was. If I have to go through Cecil to do it, so be it. I never wanted the easy road. Give me all the hungry guys, and we’ll prove it in the ring.”
As Harrison speaks, he becomes increasingly animated, which is saying something for a dude whose Day-Glo personality is already bright enough to illuminate a mineshaft.
When asked if he has anything special planned for Saturday considering that it’s Halloween, the question immediately becomes a rhetorical one, like asking Benji if he’s into fire hydrants.
“I don’t even want to tell you what’s going on,” he says with a chuckle. “That’s part of my personality, man, finding stuff and making it click. Halloween and Tony, that clicks. I’m going to find a way to make it entertaining to where the fans are like, ‘I want to see that guy again.’
"The sport has been a little bit dry, and I think that’s something it lacks: personality. I bring a little pizazz and a little personality to it. You’re going to see a performance in and out of the ring.”
For full coverage of Harrison vs McCalla, visit our fight page.