The fourth of July may have passed, but Saturday, July 11 will touch off some proverbial fireworks in the humid setting of balmy Tampa, Florida. The ambiance may be placid but the evening promises an atmosphere that could not be confused with serenity.
With the backdrop of Premier Boxing Champions clearly present and accounted for, the fighters were not at a loss for words about their opportunity and what their respective fights mean to them during the final press conference.
As they sat on the dais the tension between middleweights Tony Harrison (21-0, 18 KOs) and Willie Nelson (23-2-1, 13 KOs) draw was permeable.
The 6’3″ Nelson was first to speak and after calling his skeptics to the carpet he spoke about his true motivation.
“I came from nothing. Every time I slept, I slept on the floor, on the sidewalk, on concrete, in abandoned homes. The dirt had more value than my life at times,” said Nelson.
“I have four kids, and I’m going to let this kid take food from my kids’ mouth? No! How many times am I going to have to prove ya’ll wrong?”
Harrison was not only unmoved by his rival’s words, but clearly agitated.
“I want to thank Willie Nelson and his team for stepping up and taking this fight. I know Willie Nelson is probably in the best shape possible. I think we’re going to see the best Willie Nelson we’ve seen in a long time, and that’s going to say a lot about me when I knock him out,” said Harrison.
“He made the changes that needed to be made to better his career. But there’s nothing like the background I come from. It ain’t nothing like the city of Detroit,” said Harrison.
Harrison went on to describe his motivation for this bout which will air live on ESPN.
“I’m looking forward to a great fight and I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’s not just enough for me to beat Willie Nelson. I want to knock Willie Nelson out. I want to be the first person ever to knock Willie Nelson out,” said Harrison.
“The challenge is not just to beat him—it’s to look good and it’s to steal the show from Keith Thurman.”
As he walked away from the microphone, Harrison berated Nelson for being “subdued” and began a verbal melee that ended with some shoving and the fighters being physically separated by their respective camps.
The scrum continued mere feet away from the main event fighters as Keith Thurman (25-0, 21 KOs) and Luis Collazo (36-6, 19 KOs) observed patiently until the conflict was neutralized, at least until Saturday.
Far from the acrimony displayed by the co-main event fighters, upset minded Collazo respectfully expressed his confidence in his conditioning and ability to upset the applecart in front of Thurman’s hometown fans.
“I didn’t come for no handouts, so you know I prepared well for this fight. I had a great camp. I hope Thurman had a great camp, I know he did. So, this is a fight you’ll have to be prepared for not only physically, but mentally, as well,” said Collazo.
Collazo’s determination was not lost on WBA Welterweight champion Thurman.
“He’s looking forward to taking my title home with him, and I believe the man because a hungry man is a dangerous man. This is going to be a great fight,” said Thurman.
It was evident that Thurman not only wants to put on a highlight reel performance for his hometown fans, but perhaps there is another statement to be made this weekend. After stepping away from the microphone he fielded a question about his current employer.
“Golden Boy offered me a disrespectful amount of money, and I was getting more and more interested in hearing of who this Al Haymon guy was. I knew that [Andre] Berto was with him, and Berto was doing great things with his career at the time.”
“I talked to Sam Watson and I had a fight out in L.A. Sam picked me up and I had my first face-to-face meeting with Al Haymon. It couldn’t have been no longer than a 40-minute meeting. We ate and we chatted, and he told me all the things why he believes he’s involved in the sport in boxing. I just met one of the realest people I’ve ever met in my life when I met Al Haymon.”
All photos by Lucas Noonan/Premier Boxing Champions
Video footage courtesy of Andrew Cleary