By Robert Coster
When young Middleweight Tony Harrison (17-0, 14 KOs) stepped into the ring on February 7th in Detroit, prospect-watchers were on the lookout as to how well the 23-year-old local boy would perform against tough, grizzled veteran Grady Brewer. After all, young Tony was being matched against a fighter who held victories over Cornelius Brundage and Fernando Guerrero and had gone the distance with the likes of Jermain Taylor, Demetrius Andrade, Matt Korobov and Peter Manfredo. Says Ali Salaam, Tony’s father, manager and coach: “It was a test for Tony — he was definitely stepping up in class. I had no doubt he would win but I wanted to see how.”
Well, Harrison passed his exam with flying colors, impressively knocking out Brewer in just two rounds. “I think we sent a message,” says Ali, “and that message is: take notice of Tony Harrison. He’s going to be Detroit’s next world champion.”
Predestination plays a part in the life of the young, up and coming middleweight from Detroit. Indeed, Tony is the grandson of the great “Hammering” Henry Hank, middleweight boxing star of the 50s and the 60s and a third-generation boxer.
Curiously enough, Ali Salaam, himself a former boxer, did not want Tony to lace up the gloves. It was Tony’s mother who forced Ali to bring the young boy to the gym.
“When I saw how good Tony was, I finally gave in,” remembers Ali with a chuckle, “he was such a rabble-rouser in school. I figured it would be better to channel his aggression into boxing.”
Tony compiled a 75-12 amateur record with Michigan Golden Gloves titles and reaching the semi-finals at the National Golden Gloves. When asked about Tony’s style and major assets. Ali will tell you, “Tony is versatile, a boxer-puncher who adapts to his opponent’s style, takes his time if he has to, but can end a fight with a single punch.”
And is there anything that Tony has inherited from his famous grandfather? “He definitely has Henry Hank’s lethal left hook and he showed it against Brewer,” answers Salaam.
The odd thing about Tony Harrison is that such a promising young boxer isn’t signed by any big promoter. “We have received plenty of offers but we are taking our time,” says Ali, “because our major ambition is to bring boxing back to Detroit.”
And what is next for Tony? Says the young man, “I want more TV exposure with the major channels. Hopefully, we’ll have a good TV fight for April or May.”
Robert Coster is an excellent judge of boxing talent. To date five young fighters from his “New Faces” series have gone on to win world titles (Tomoki Kameda, Evgeny Gradovich, Johan Perez, Nicholas Walters and Ruslan Provodnikov).