Former junior middleweight champion Tony Harrison returns to the ring for the first time in 16 months. He’s looking to answer some questions in the ring.
Tony Harrison hit the triumphant peak of his boxing career when he defeated Jermell Charlo for the WBC junior middleweight title in 2018. It was a glorious moment, but as with most things in life, the moment couldn’t last, as Norman Maclean once wrote.
One year after becoming a world champion, Harrison lost his world title to Charlo in the rematch. He gave a spirited effort but was stopped in round 11. It was an exhausting defeat that saw Harrison knocked down three times.
Harrison’s (28-2,21 KOs) mind was in that fight, but his body was worn. He’s only 30 years old, but years in the gym without a break had taken their toll on Harrison’s body. Before the rematch with Charlo, Harrison tore tendons in his ankle, which required surgery. Harrison was dealing with more than just a newly recovered ankle.
“I wouldn’t say I was burnt out, but my body was definitely tired, to be honest, man,” Harrison told FanSided. “I made the weight but struggled to do it. And I did it wrong. And that’s when the knockout came in. I mean, you know, it’s just you got to do everything right when it comes to the sport of boxing. You can’t shortcut it in no way possible.”
Harrison fights Bryant Perrella on Saturday, April 17. It’s his first fight in 16 months since losing to Charlo. He planned to get into the ring earlier, but the pandemic tragically changed everything for Harrison and his family. Harrison’s father and trainer Ali Salaam lost his battle with COVID-19 last April when the world was just realizing the devastating effects of the virus. Salaam was only 59 years old.
Harrison finds strength through his tight-knit family. He leaned on them to handle the grief of his father’s passing, and they keep him motivated through his boxing training. Harrison’s brother LJ is now his head trainer. He continues Salaam’s teaching and guidance of Harrison in the ring.
Tony Harrison doesn’t know if he will be fighting the effects of time as well as Bryant Perrella on April 17.
“Everything about my camp is family, so anybody you see around his family,” said Harrison. “My next head trainer is my brother. He’s been with me through thick and thin. Through the loss of it. My dad taught him just like he taught me.”
Harrison and his family have endured incredible loss and pain, but they are fighters. They don’t allow their pain to stop their hopes and dreams and carry on. Through the worst of it, Harrison still managed to grow throughout it all.
On his layoff from boxing, Harrison said, “It was more of what I needed to be honest. I haven’t taken a break from boxing since I was five years old. It was hard to be away from the sport. But it also brought a fire that I was missing. If we love something, it always comes back.”
Harrison’s relationship with boxing is renewed, and he’s excited to fight Perrella in his return. Perrella (17-3, 14 KOs) isn’t on the same level as Charlo, but he’s a hard-hitting southpaw capable of giving anybody a hard time.
Harrison doesn’t see this fight as a tune-up. Every fight is important to him, and he doesn’t put them on different levels. However, in this fight, Harrison is looking to answer some lingering questions.
“My body is telling me all the answers I need to know come the 17th, to be honest,” said Harrison candidly. “Being off 16 months, I got a lot of questions that I’m asking myself. Mentally I’m there, but you know, mentally is totally different than when you want somebody to run at the same speed they ran at 26.”
Is Harrison the same fighter he was when he beat Charlo for the title? Has he lost something during his time away from boxing? How much time does he have left in the sport? Those are the questions Harrison is asking himself. The only way to answer them is by fighting and seeing how his body responds. Harrison will have an answer to those questions soon.
Watch Tony Harrison vs. Bryant Perrella on Saturday, April 17, on FOX. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET.