By Jackie Kallen
Emanuel Steward’s birthday was July 7 and if he were still alive, the gift he’d most likely be hoping for would be a Tony Harrison win on Saturday night in Tampa. Harrison, 21-0, was Steward’s last protégé before he passed away nearly three years ago. He had high hopes for the middleweight from Detroit.
Now the proof of Harrison’s potential will be tested when he faces Cleveland’s Willie Nelson at the USF Sundome. I know Harrison will be thinking of his mentor and former trainer when he steps into the ring. This 10-round fight will be a good step up for Harrison and a win will put him even closer to a title fight.
To date his career has been flawless. After turning pro in 2011 with four consecutive first round Kos, Harrison established himself as a comer. He went on to defeat a steady diet of record-builders and improving his skills along the way. His power was evident in each fight and he has managed to destroy 86% of his opponents by stoppage. Only three men have walked out of the ring after losing a decision.
At 23-2-1, Nelson is no slouch. He has never been stopped. His two losses were decisions, the last being to WBO champ Vanes Martirosyan nine months ago. He is 28 years old and has decent strength, having KOed half of his opponents. He hasn’t fought an undefeated foe since 2012, when he beat John Jackson for the NABF Super Welterweight belt.
Harrison has been in with a better class of opposition. He has beaten Grady Brewer, Bronco McKart and Tyrone Brunson. He sees Nelson as merely a step along the path to greatness. Having seen him in the gym, I can honestly say that he looks very tough to beat.
Also on the same card, undefeated Keith Thurman will put his 25-0 record on the line against 36-6 Luis Collazo. Though he has come up short, Collazo has mixed it up with the likes of Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton and Andre Berto. He beat Victor Ortiz in January 2014 to win the WBA International Welterweight belt, but lost it a few months later to Amir Khan. This will be a big win for whichever man prevails. The odds are with Thurman.
In a four round undercard fight, Antonio Tarver’s son (Antonio Tarver jr.) will be looking for his third straight win in his young career. Fighting at super welterweight, junior is 27 years old. Is it just me or is it hard to believe that Tarver has a son that old?