Home Interviews Q&A interview with undefeated Tony Harrison; faces Willie Nelsen on July 11...

Q&A interview with undefeated Tony Harrison; faces Willie Nelsen on July 11 PBC on ESPN card

Credit: Ed Diller / DBE

Undefeated rTony Harrison (21-0, 18 KOs) is set for his Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN showdown against Willie Nelson (23-2-1, 13 KOs) taking place Saturday, July 11 from the USF Sun Dome in Tampa and will look to make an impression in his first PBC start.

Harrison’s fight will mark the very first PBC on ESPN bout and will precede the evening’s main event featuring undefeated welterweight world champion Keith “One Time” Thurman (25-0, 21 KOs) battling former world champion Luis Collazo (36-6, 19 KOs) on ESPN, with televised coverage beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

Before Harrison enters the ring, learn more about the Detroit native and future star and what has gotten him to this point in his own words.

Harrison has boxing in his family…

Not only is his father Ali Salaam a former professional welterweight, but his grandfather is former heavyweight contender Henry Hank. Harrison is trained by his father and is in the gym with him everyday.

“It’s a father-son relationship. We have our ups and our downs, but nobody has my well being in mind more than my father.”

However, it was Harrison’s mother who encouraged him to start boxing….

Harrison was frequently suspended from school for fighting and while his parents encouraged him to stand up for himself, his mother saw a potentially dangerous path forming. She was able to convince him his father to take Harrison to the gym.

“My dad didn’t want me to box but my mom got tired of seeing me get suspended. She told my dad to put me in the gym. My mom knew about boxing from him and said to take me to the gym and we never looked back.”

Harrison was the second youngest of eight kids growing up…

He was the second youngest of his three brothers and four sisters. He’s closest to his older brother Lloyd, 26, who still wraps his hands.

“I was the test dummy for everything that was supposed to be tested out. I got the clothes second hand. I was young so I was the dummy. When wrestling came on, my older brother would do the ‘Rock Bottom’ on me and I would just get up and smile. All this stuff made me tougher.”

His cousin is future NFL Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, who he teams up with for his greatest passion outside boxing…

Harrison’s greatest joy outside of the ring comes from the team of youth football players he coaches for a team sponsored by Antonio Gates. Every day after training Harrison coaches the Michigan Bulldogs of the Advanced Youth Football League. They haven’t lost a game in three years.

“My heart belongs to the kids. Every day I go out and work with those kids. Next year, they’ll move up to an older team and I’m going to miss them like crazy. If I wasn’t boxing, I wouldn’t do anything but be with those kids every day.”

Born in Detroit, he hopes to raise the prominence of Detroit boxing nationwide…

The Detroit-native has fought seven times in his home city as a pro, most recently in May 2014.

“I feel like Detroit is still a hotbed for boxing. The publicity just hasn’t been there. People aren’t coming to Detroit like they used to and they don’t get the same opportunities. No one is out here on the forefront. There’s the same talent and caliber of fighters, it just takes somebody to open up the door so that the big names and big companies come back to the city.”

He was managed by the legendary Emanuel Steward and has trained at the famed Kronk Gym…

Harrison was managed by Steward but considered him more of a mentor and friend. While at Kronk he sparred with top fighters such as Cornelius Bundrage, Andy Lee, Dominique Dolton, Chad Dawson and Luis Collazo.

“Emanuel was more than my manager, he was my friend. He did a little bit of everything. He took care of me. I would go on walks with him and I believed in him. He has a special place in my heart.”

He is prepared for the step up in competition against Willie Nelson…

Harrison will no doubt be facing the toughest opponent of his career so far on July 11 when he battles the experienced and dangerous Nelson.

“I know Willie Nelson is a tough guy. He breathes the same air I breathe from this region and that comes with a lot of heart. Ohio has always had some of the top amateurs in the country and he comes from that area. His losses came against top competition. He’s a real dangerous fighter to fight.”

He relishes fighting in the first PBC on ESPN bout…

Harrison is fully aware that July 11 is a major opportunity for him. One that will further his goals of remaining undefeated and eventually becoming a world champion.

“I’m the kind of guy to be the first fighter to do something [in the first PBC on ESPN bout]. If you want to try something out for the first time, I’m that guy. My brothers did it my whole life. If you want to make history, you call me. That’s the kind of person I am. I feel like I’m Mr. ESPN. I’m the kind of guy who makes history. I’m going to do it in impressive fashion. I think you’re going to see the best Tony Harrison you’ve ever seen. I’m coming to put on a show. It’s going to be drama.”