By Byron Spurlock
NABF light heavyweight champion Chris “Hard Hittin” Henry (23-1, 18 KOs) is fighting contender Yusaf Mack (26-2, 16 KOs) in the main event of tonight’s ESPN2 Friday Night Fights. Henry has proven himself with many exciting knockouts as he has stepped up the ladder of better quality competition.
Henry’s hard work created a title opportunity and in April 2009 when he fought Adrian Diaconu for the interim WBC light heavyweight title. Diaconu controlled the first half of the fight, but Henry came on strong in the last four rounds to make a very good fight. Henry was wobbled at the end of round eight, but showed a great chin and heart to stay on his feet.
Fighting in Burcharest, Romania - the homeland of Diaconu - Henry lost a controversial but close decision (113-116 and 113-115 twice) but his showing strengthened his determination that he would win a world title.
Henry’s style is to come straight to his opponents, which should cause fireworks with Mack, who possesses power in both hands.
Henry is ranked #4 by the WBC, #12 by the WBA and #6 by the IBF while Mack is ranked #9 by the WBA and #11 by the IBF.
The winner of this crossroad confrontation of contenders will move closer to a world title shot while the loser may be dropped from contendership.
“My main goal is basically to get to the top so none of the top guys can avoid or duck me,” outlined Henry.
Both Henry and his trainer - Bobby Benton - discussed tonight’s fight with FightNews earlier this week.
How do you feel that your training camp has been coming along for the fight against Yusaf Mack?
I think things are going well, we are working hard, Bobby is breaking things down that we have to get done and we are just trying to take care of business in the gym here. We’re staying in the gym all the time, breaking down film, so I feel that we are more than prepared for this fight.
Would you consider this a showcase fight for you? How are you preparing for the fight that can take you to the next level?
You know I think people are beginning to open up their eyes and seeing who we are. It’s not like we just came from out of the dark, we’ve been here for a while. It’s been hard to get some exposure, but now that we are making some traction in that area, I believe we are going to take full advantage of the chances we get.
I believe in the Diaconu loss in April of 2008; that was my first professional loss and that was for the Interim WBC light heavyweight title. I fought that fight in his backyard and it turned out to be a controversial decision loss where the scorecards could have gone either way. Even in that fight people began to see who Chris Henry really was and I don’t think people are taking me lightly anymore.
You’re a young fighter, just 27 years of age. Are you taking this fight as a must win?
Have to, in this sport every fight is a must win fight for a fighter and that’s the way I’m looking at this fight. I can’t wait for another day or another fight; I have to take one fight at a time and right now this coming Friday is where I have to take care of business.
This fight is going to show everything, I’m expecting Mack to bring his game to the fight and if that happens this is going to be a good fight. This is a fight that I need that is going to take me to that next level where I want to be fighting some of the champions out there.
Was there a fight in your career that perhaps has changed you and made you look at things a little different?
I would have to say it goes back to the single loss that I experienced. I traveled to another country and experienced a tough fight in someone else’s backyard. I learned that in some fights you cannot expect to walk away with a decision, (that) you have to end the fight early by getting a knockout.
This is a crossroads battle between top contenders plus you are on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights. This is a prefect opportunity for a young contender. What are your thoughts?
My main goal is basically to get to the top so none of the top guys can avoid or duck me. I want to be in the mix so that the best have to come to me. Hopefully with this fight I will get some of those fighters out there who are ranked ahead of me might want to setup a fight with me, who knows. My thing is to take advantage of the spotlight being on me this Friday night and let this opportunity take me to the next level so I can challenge a win a light heavyweight title in 2009.
How has Chris progress been leading up to the fight?
I think everything has been going fine, leading up to this fight. We’ve had eight good weeks of training, the weight is coming down perfect and we had some real hard-hitting sparring in the gym. Fighters who normally fight here in the gym got Chris ready for the fight as well.
How important is this fight to Chris?
Chris is ready for the fight, mentally he is ready physically he is ready; let’s just say that we stay ready.
How do you feel about the location of the fight being in Maryland?
I feel good; this fight is on neutral grounds Yusaf Mack is from Philadelphia, so this is a pretty neutral site for both fighters.
What have you told Chris about this opportunity of being on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights?
I haven’t had to tell Chris anything, he knows that in this sport you have to take advantage of every chance you get. Both guys are ranked high in the rankings. I think both fighters know this is a big fight for each of them, Chris knows it, Yusaf knows it, and so I’m sure both fighters will be bringing their “A” game that night.