By Lem Satterfield
Tony Harrison’s pair of ninth-round TKO losses to Willie Nelson and Jarrett Hurd were eerily similar – both resulting from brutal right hands to the jaw. On each occasion, “Superbad” went down only to rise on rubbery legs as the referee waved an end to the bout.
Nelson’s victory in July 2015 ended Harrison’s run of 10 consecutive stoppages, and Hurd’s, for the IBF’s vacant 154-pound world title in February 2017, Harrison’s three-fight winning steak.
Included in Harrison's victories prior to the loss to Hurd were consecutive sixth- and ninth-round TKOs of southpaw title challenger Fernando Guerrero (March 2016) and previously once-beaten Siarhei Rabchanka (July 2016), the latter of whom was stopped for the first time in his career.
But Harrison (27-2, 21 KOs) claims to have remedied his defensive, offensive and stamina issues in pursuit of his fourth straight victory and second knockout during that time on December 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on FOX (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).
That’s where Harrison challenges WBC champion Jermell Charlo (31-0, 15 KOs), who is after his fourth defense and fifth knockout in six fights as the co-main event to his older-by-a-minute twin sibling, Jermall (27-0, 21 KOs).
“I’ve learned to train at a rate where I peak right at fight time and not overdo it. I’m eating better. I’m not getting any younger, so the [stuff] that I was getting away with when I was younger is out the window. I’m just taking calculated steps to do everything right and to make sure that, health-wise, I’m at 100 percent,” said Harrison, who like the Charlos, is 28, during an interview with Jordan Hardy of the Premiere Boxing Champions website.
“My uncle always that to stop somebody from throwing the right hand you’ve gotta throw a lot of left hooks. Charlo’s a helluva fighter. When you’re fighting a guy with a good work rate and good talent and good power, you can’t focus on just stopping one punch. You’ve gotta fight a complete fight for all 12 rounds. Charlo can hurt you with a left hook just like a right hand.”
Harrison has won three straight since losing to Hurd comprised of a unanimous decision over Paul Valenzuela Jr. in October 2017, a fifth-round TKO over George Sosa in February 2018, and a 10-round split-decision victory over former champion Ishe Smith in May.
Fighting in hostile territory at the Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall in Las Vegas, the 6-foot-1 Harrison repeatedly hammered right hands against Smith’s badly swollen left eye, dropping the Las Vegas-born, 39-year-old in the third round.
Harrison made a statement concerning his conditioning against Smith, against whom he scored a third-round knockdown, by standing in his corner, his father and trainer, Ali Salaam, told BoxingScene.com.
“Tony’s conditioning was great against Smith,” said Salaam of the fight the Las Vegas-born Smith, who was making his sixth straight hometown appearance. “[Harrison stood up between rounds over the last five of the fight. Tony was boxing on his toes against Smith and finished the fight strong, so we’re going in the right direction.”