Super welterweight contender from the Motor City says there's plenty of gas in his tank to get past the former champion Friday night on PBC on Bounce and then make another drive toward a 154-pound title.
Tony Harrison’s nickname ought to be “The Mechanic.” Chat with him and the topic quickly turns to cars.
Harrison, 27, was born and bred in Detroit, Michigan, which is historically known for producing almost as many fine boxers as it does vehicles.
The tall, rangy Harrison (26-2, 21 KOs), who is partial to stylish shades indoors, is one of Michigan’s latest products. He squares off against former champion Ishe Smith this Friday night in a 10-round, 154-pound main event on a Bounce TV-televised card (9 pm ET/6 pm PT) from Sam's Town Hotel & Gambling Hall in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Smith (29-9, 12 KOs), is the division’s gatekeeper and, at 39, still formidable. Last November, he nearly upset Julian Williams, losing a close decision despite a 14-month layoff.
“I respect Ishe as a fighter,” Harrison said. “He’s a former world champion and is still competing at the highest level. That lets me know that he’s doing a lot of things outside of the ring right, like eating proper foods and taking care of his body.”
Harrison learned the importance of this the hard way. In August 2015, Willie Nelson stopped him in the ninth round of a fight that he led on the judges’ scorecards.
In February 2017, Harrison fought Jarrett Hurd for the vacant IBF 154-pound title. Again, he controlled the action only to wilt late and suffer another ninth-round TKO loss.
“I haven’t had much luck with the number nine,” Harrison cracked. “But a lot has changed. This time around, if it does go to the ninth, I’ll be on a cruise control at a speed he can’t match.”
Harrison says those losses weren’t due to any technical flaws. Following the Hurd bout, he and his team evaluated his performance and concluded that changes were needed outside of the ring.
“Training-wise, it was about what kind of gas I was putting in the Benz,” Harrison said.
“You’ve got to take care of your engine. Sometimes, it’s not even about the gas I’m putting in the Benz, but how hard I’m pushing the Benz on these inner-city roads. It’s a Benz. It’s not meant to be treated like a racecar. Sometimes you have to cruise on the road.”
“ I’m going to push him in this fight, drive him up to the mountaintop and see if those 39-year-old wheels can handle all the twists and turns. I tweaked my engine and I’m ready to go. There’s just too much horsepower in this fighter. ” 154-pound contender Tony Harrison
Harrison can’t ease off the car references, but he has altered his regimen, listening to his body and appreciating the value of recovery. Although he won his next two fights, there was still debate over whether they’d found the right balance.
“My father Dusty is my trainer and my older brother Lloyd is my strength and conditioning coach,” he said. “They’re like night and day. Lloyd wants to floor the Cadillac and see how it rides at 100 mph. My dad says we already know how it’s going to ride at that speed. Let’s give it a tune up and let it rest for a day. Eventually, that’s what we decided to do.”
Harrison says this camp has been perfect. Although they’ve scaled back the volume, the work is as intense as ever. Detroit’s Super Bad Fitness Gym is often packed with up to 30 competitive boxers at a time, pushing each other. Harrison’s sparring partners include former U.S. Olympian Charles Conwell and undefeated prospect Leon Lawson III.
“I go 12 rounds with three different sparring partners,” he said. “They only go four rounds each so that allows them to stay fresh. In the past, after a hard day of sparring, we’d push through the day after. Now my dad might call me and say, ‘Stay home and rest.’ I come into the gym the next day feeling refreshed.”
Harrison understands what’s at stake this Friday. After nearly upsetting his last opponent, Smith is pressing for one more run at a world championship. A loss for either would likely remove them from a title bid.
“This is a crossroads fight for both of us,” Harrison admits. “I, for sure, need this win and he’s trying for one last hurrah. So, I think there’s going to be a lot of give and take in this fight. But make no mistake about it, I’m going to dictate the pace and push the tempo.”
“A win here is not going to be good enough. A lot of people expect me to win. I must either KO him, stop him, or win so impressively, he doesn’t look like he belongs in there with me. No one has ever done that to Ishe before. But if I do that, it puts me right back in the conversation of the top fighters in the division.”
Despite the pressure, Harrison is brimming with confidence. To no one’s surprise, he views the task like a driver on an obstacle course.
“A world title is the ultimate goal,” he said. “And it starts with Ishe. I’m going to push him in this fight, drive him up to the mountaintop and see if those 39-year-old wheels can handle all the twists and turns. I tweaked my engine and I’m ready to go. There’s just too much horsepower in this fighter.”
For a complete look at Smith vs Harrison, visit our fight page.