Tony Harrison’s lost twice in eerily similar fashion during 26 fights.
On each occasion, Harrison was down in the ninth round from a smashing right to the jaw, rising on rubbery legs only for the referee to wave an end to the bout.
It happened in Harrison’s last appearance in February when unbeaten Jarrett Hurd became the second man to finish him. Hurd won a vacant 154-pound world title with the stunning victory.
The ending resembled a ninth-round loss to Willie Nelson in July 2015, ending Harrison’s run of 10 consecutive stoppages.
“I had them hurt a couple of times but didn’t finish them off. Hurd’s team was just better prepared,” said Harrison, a lifetime Detroit resident who won three straight, two by stoppage, between losses.
“Maybe God is telling me not to go to No. 9. I think I let guys get a little too confident in the beginning. I need to be more explosive. I have to start faster, be more physical. My offense has to be my best defense.”
Harrison (24-2- 2, 20 KOs) returns to action against Paul Valenzuela Jr. (20-5, 14 KOs) at Barclays Center in Brookly on Oct. 14. Valenzuela is coming off a unanimous decision loss to former title challenger Wilky Campfort in March, which ended a run of three straight wins, all first-round TKOs
“ Maybe God is telling me not to go to No. 9. ” Tony Harrison
Harrison meets Valenzuela on a 154-pound championship tripleheader featuring Hurd (20-0, 14 KOs) against left-handed former champion Austin Trout (30-3, 17 KOs) and defenses by southpaw Erislandy Lara (24-2- 2, 14 KOs) against 2012 Olympian Terrell Gausha (20-0, 9 KOs) and champion Jermell Charlo (29-0, 14 KOs) against left-hander Erickson Lubin (18-0, 13 KOs) on Showtime (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“Coming back from eight months off to a deep card with the best guys in the weight division, I couldn’t return to a better platform to showcase my skills,” said Harrison, the second youngest of eight children and 27-year- old grandson of former heavyweight contender Henry Hank.
“This is the perfect fight. From what we’ve seen of Valenzuela, he wants to fight like me, and I think I have the most success when these guys come to fight early. That’s the style of sparring I’ve gotten, so I’m going to be extremely prepared, mentally.”
Harrison dropped and stopped Sergey Rabchenko, who entered their July 2016 bout at 27-1 with 20 KOs and had stopped two opponents since falling by split decision to former champion Anthony Mundine in November 2014.
Before that Harrison scored two knockdowns during a sixth-round knockout of former title challenger Fernando Guerrero in March 2016, having rebounded from the loss to Nelson with a 10-round unanimous decision over Cecil McCalla on Halloween 2015.
Harrison’s training has returned to the methods of Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, who named him “Superbad” before his death on October 25, 2012, at the age of 68. Steward served as co-trainer with Harrison’s father, former 147-pound boxer Ali Salaam.
“We’ve gone back to the drawing board. I was burning myself out, over-training, peaking too early and crashing by fight time,” said Harrison, who trains out of his Detroit-based Superbad Gym.
“There’s been more rest, this camp. I wake up with a spring in my step rather than being sluggish. My body has more ability to capitalize and finish. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
- Tony Harrison