By Ryan Maquiñana
Ever since hometown hero Lamont Peterson defeated Amir Khan last December at the Washington Convention Center in our nation’s capital, the venue has often been the scene for a ringside revival in 2012.
One of the up-and-coming locals leading the charge in D.C. is 18-year-old Southeast native Dusty Harrison (9-0, 5 KOs), a welterweight prospect who has appeared six times at 801 Mount Vernon Place in the last 11 months.
Harrison, known as “The Beltway Boricua” for his mother’s Puerto Rican roots, spoke to BoxingScene.com before his return to the Convention Center this Saturday against Nalo Leal (4-16-1) in his first eight-rounder.
BoxingScene.com: First, the age-old question. How has camp been in preparation for Nalo Leal? I know down in D.C. you’ve been gaining experience sparring guys like the Peterson brothers and DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley.
Dusty Harrison: It’s good to spar people like Lamont, ‘Chop,’ and the local pros. You learn a lot of things from them. It’s a great experience. I think I’ve learned when to turn it up and put the pressure on. I’ve also been doing a better job of pacing myself.
BoxingScene.com: Two fights ago against Marqus Jackson, you were down for the first time in your career, pro or amateur. You showed heart in holding on for the win. Can you take us through that experience?
Dusty Harrison: I’ve never been down as an amateur or in sparring. I’ve never even slipped, so it was different. I did everything I should’ve did. I held on. I won the last part of the round. Even one of the judges didn’t make it a 10-8 round because of how I finished.
BoxingScene.com: What did you learn from that fight?
Dusty Harrison: I learned a lot of lessons. You can’t get relaxed going into the last round. There was a minute and a half left in the fight. I wasn’t tired or anything. I just wasn’t as focused as I was in the earlier rounds. It was a great learning experience. Better now than get caught by someone who’s a real finisher.
BoxingScene.com: Whenever a young prospect shows any kind of vulnerability, some fans are quick to point out his flaws. With D.C. being such a close-knit fight town, I’m sure the message boards were lighting up with negative comments. How do you deal with that?
Dusty Harrison: I don’t pay too much attention to the negative comments. Some of the things they say are just way off. They’re funny. I just laugh.
BoxingScene.com: It will take a lot of maturity on your end to not let the critics get to you as you progress. You’re not even a year and a half into your pro career, and you’re already on the brink of your 10th win. Did you expect to be here at this juncture?
Dusty Harrison: Everyone always asks me if I expected to be here. I did, just not this fast. I’ve had a lot of fights. I really like the schedule, and the fast pace.
BoxingScene.com: In this day and age, staying active is tough to do. How important do you think it is to do that, not only for your development but to build a local fanbase?
Dusty Harrison: Every fight I get a bigger fanbase every time, and if it weren’t for the people who come out and watch me, I wouldn’t be able to do it, so it’s really all thanks to them.
BoxingScene.com: Washington, D.C., has always been labeled as a sleeping giant in the industry. What do you think makes it a good fight town?
Dusty Harrison: Everybody wants to come to the big fight. It’s been smart business bringing boxing back. We’ve had a lot of fighters come out of here. I guess compared with the other sports, you can always watch professional boxing in small venues like this and have great seats. It’s more personal I think than going to a Nationals game or a Redskins game. I get to walk around and meet the crowd after. It’s a lot more personal.
BoxingScene.com: Going back to the topic of your career, this is going to be your first eight-rounder on Saturday. Do you have any concerns about rushing into something like this so quickly, especially at age 18?
Dusty Harrison: The last two fights, I didn’t know if they would be six or eight rounds, so I’ve been training for eight. I don’t have too many concerns. Like I said, I’ve been doing a better job of pacing myself and recognizing when somebody’s hurt and stop him, and when not to waste my energy. I think I did that in my last fight as far as pacing myself until the right time, so yeah, I’m not too worried.
BoxingScene.com: Your father and trainer, Buddy Harrison, informed me that if you can get by Leal, that a fight with fellow prospect Tim Witherspoon Jr. (8-3-1, 2 KOs) is in the cards for December. What do you think about that matchup?
Dusty Harrison: We tried to do it for this fight, and I guess he said he’d do it in December. I think it’s great. My dad and my mom always sit down with me and we talk about when it’s time to step it up. When it comes, I’m going to train even harder than I have before. I hope everything works out with that.
BoxingScene.com: Is there anything else you’d like to tell the fans?
Dusty Harrison: Yes. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram: @Dusty30th. Thanks to everyone for all the support.
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.