‘Tis the season to be joyful for Tony Harrison
NEW YORK — He’s not a big “Christmas” guy, doesn’t make a big deal of it all, though. Tony Harrison told me….hey, clear the kids away from the computer….he does go along with the Santa thing for the sake of his son.
But, he acknowledged during a Sunday chat, this year there is a certain merriment and festiveness filling the air.
The Detroit based boxer scored a decision win over Jermell Charlo on Saturday night at Barclays Center, in the co-feature of the PBC on Fox debut. And yes, OK, everyone knows, not everyone agreed with the decision.
I told him as much on the phone, that I’m a volume guy, and volume wasn’t paramount in his game plan, which he adhered to damned well in Brooklyn.
“I’m on top the world now, and when I get my belt that’s when my best day starts,” the 28 year old hitter with a 28-2 (21 knockouts) mark told me.
And, I asked, how did he celebrate? Dance on tables at a tavern? Pop corks? What?
“I didn’t do all that much,” he said. “I was in the lobby at 6 AM, I had a plane to catch at 8 AM. I had some people to the room, reminisced. Deontay Wilder came to the room. Errol Spence greeted me.”
Mature celebration, I noted.
Indeed, he agreed.
So, did it feel different; was he in a different mode or mood having won that belt? “I knew what I always was, I was just missing the belt,” said the poetic pugilist.
His dad, who worked his corner and steered the rudder with superior calmness, did show some emotion, the fighter reported. His dad, Ali Salaam, a pro from 1984-1989, knew that his pop, Henry Hank, accumulated scar tissue and a 62-30-2 mark fighting as a pro from 1953-1972.
“He may have felt a little passionate, seeing his dad come up short, me come up short a few times…he felt more dramatic,” Tony said. “In a good way.”
So, feelings were felt…among them bewilderment.
Harrison told me that he didn’t tell Jermell that he won the fight before the decision was announced. “Why the fuck did he say that? I can’t believe he made that up, a bold ass lie on TV. I said, ‘You a good champ, whatever happens I hope we get a rematch.’’’
And does he think that’s what’s next, a sequel? “I have no clue about a rematch clause. But for legacy, for his sake, for the controversy, let’s do it.”
And we did discuss why the perception bubbled up that Jermell deserved the nod. “I think I fought the perfect fight for the way he fights. He never gave me a reason to throw a lot of punches, there was never a reason to go balls to the wall. People need to understand the art of sport.” He spoke of the desire to not get hit…”I want to go home to my son and daughter…My jab was on point, I knew I couldn’t miss.” And has he watched a replay of those twelve rounds? “I watched the fight on mute, so I couldn’t be shaded, I watched as a fan….he lost!”
I told him I thought in a rematch, it might be a more “fan friendly” affair, not so much one to be more appreciated by those more appreciative of the subtler side of the fistic construct. “I think Jermell could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing but when it’s time to eat, the wolf will be a wolf. Once the action starts, he will go back to being himself. I was the ring general, from him there was a lot of ineffective pressure. People said he was pushing forward…doing what, missing? There was a lot of ineffective activity from Jermell. I had effective activity.”
Harrison summed a few things up to close. One, he’d like people to stop referring to the win as a robbery. It was a close fight, and a 115-113 card means it’s one round from a draw. No collusion! I mean, no robbery.
We talked more about the spirit of the season, and how he tries to be in a certain spirit year round. “If you don’t expect anything, then you are grateful for everything,” Harrison said. “And in 2019, nothing really changes for me. We’ll put pressure on getting help for kids and the schools, make the people in power listen,” he said, naming the West Side in Detroit as the first station in order of business.
My three cents: Harrison isn’t on the BWAA year end ballot, but he could be, if we had an award for the guy who just keeps on keepin’ on. Stoppage loss to Willie Nelson, he soldiered on. He won three straight, got a title crack. Stoppage loss to Jarrett Hurd, he soldiered on. Won three straight, got another crack at it. And he busted the pinata…We should all be so plucky.
Tony was trained by Emanuel Steward…wait, can you hear an appreciative Manny cackle drifting in the wind?….and is the sort of guy who makes boxing look good when he walks around his hood and mixes with the locals, no airs about him, no cockiness dripping off of him and sending a subtle aura of repellence and condescension outward.
Props to Tony Harrison, winner on my ballot for The Guy Who Just Kept On Keepin’ On.
Happy holidays to all you readers…feel free to follow me into this new year on Twitter @Woodsy1069.