June 4, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Terry Foster

Tony Harrison fights for family - and Detroit

Tony Harrison, right, fights Daniel Urbanski in a junior midleweight fight in 2012 at Hamburg, Germany. (Patrik Stollarz / Getty Images)

Detroit — Tony Harrison, the face of Detroit boxing, is taking a break.

Not because he’s disenchanted with his sport. On the contrary. He loves boxing and hopes to challenge for a world title.

But there are bigger battles for Harrison to fight.

His cousin Pam Gates has lupus and is not doing well, and he plans to be by her side to help in any way he can.

“It is hard seeing her in this position, fighting for her life,” Harrison said after he knocked out former world champion Bronco McKart last week. “The fight is bigger than the ring and it gives me perspective. It’s people fighting for something bigger than boxing.

“I put that in perspective when I step in the ring. You know boxing can end at any given time. It humbles me to go into the ring and give it my best. My cousin is fighting for bigger or deeper things than me.”

Following Hearns

In the ring, however, Harrison is making a name for himself.

At 23, he’s 18-0 with 15 knockouts. Impressive for a fighter late trainer Emanuel Steward warned was going to make noise in the boxing world.

That day has come.

All Harrison needs is experience and more maturing to earn some high-profile title shots.

And with that would come an opportunity to put Detroit boxing in the forefront just like Thomas Hearns once did.

“I would love to duplicate it the way he did it,” Harrison said. “Tommy Hearns is a guy I want to resemble myself as in the way he did things to further his career. To be compared to Tommy Hearns is a blessing.”

Harrison can become that — and more. He has more charisma than Hearns ever did, and it’s hard to take your eyes off his rough-and-tough style of boxing.

Channeling anger

But Harrison also enters the ring with pain and hardship, which are essential to gaining an angry edge.

That edge comes from a hard life, in which his family was kicked out of its home twice and when, as a kid, he fought other boys at school and in the streets.

Harrison hated seeing his mother walk to work and his father struggle. He knew the best — and fastest — way to help his family financially was to enter the ring.

That’s why he fights. Family.

That includes Detroit.

“Detroit means everything to me,” Harrison said. “It is the city that raised me. It was a city on the decline. How I want to bring it back up. ... I want to be that kid that makes a difference in Detroit.

“I want to be like a father figure to Detroit.”

But before Harrison can make all those dreams come true, he’ll be a father figure to someone who’s in a different fight — a more important fight:

The fight for life.

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