Tony Thompson: Go or Go Home?
By Alec Kohut, MaxBoxing (May 27, 2011) Special to Doghouse Boxing
Tony Thomspon
“Absolutely.” Heavyweight Tony Thompson of Washington DC said without hesitation when asked if he considered tonight’s contest with Maurice Harris is a ‘go-or-go-home’ fight. At 39 years old Thompson knows what’s at stake tonight when he squares off against Maurice Harris in Reno on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights. “It’s probably a go-or-go-home fight for him too.” And he’s right.

Officially this bout is an IBF eliminator for the #2 ranking, and the opportunity to fight Philadelphia’s Eddie Chambers for the #1 spot, and a shot at a title. Realistically this fight will, for all intents and purposes, end one of the fighters chances of ever having the chance to fight for the greatest title in sports, the heavyweight championship of the world.

Thompson, of course, has already had one crack at the title, suffering an eleventh round TKO loss to IBF and WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko in July of 2008. Since then Thompson feels that experience has helped him become a far better fighter. “Knowledge. I have a whole wealth of knowledge I can depend on now. I know my body better, I know my mindset better, and I know the fight game better.” Thompson replied when asked what is different after the fight with Klitschko. He added, “Back then he basically caught a guy off the street just learning how to fight, and he didn’t get the best of me yet.

Although Thompson at the time had been a professional fighter for eight years with 32 official bouts, plus his appearance in the unofficial Thunderbox Heavyweight Tournament, his comments illuminate the gap between contender and champion.
Thompson stands at 35-2-0 with 23 KOs, while Harris’ record looks unimpressive at 24-14-2 (10). But Harris began his career going 7-8-2, and has fought some big names in the division. After a two-year layoff, Harris has put together a four-bout win streak, most recently scoring a twelve-round decision over Nagy Aguilera last November. Some are even picking him to emerge victorious tonight.

Thompson stated he is not only unfazed by those on the Harris bandwagon, but understands it. “I can’t blame them, Maurice is a great boxer, and if anybody is to give me problems, it would be a guy with good boxing moves.”

Fueling that fire is the fact that Harris actually beat Thompson in the aforementioned Thunderbox tournament. Does that provide a revenge motive? “Definitely. I don’t care if it was just a fight for pay, any man that holds a victory over me; I want to get back at them. That’s why I’m trying so hard to get back at Klitschko.” Thompson told Maxboxing.

Being underestimated is nothing new to the southpaw Thompson, after his loss to Klitschko he was matched against then 26-1 Chazz Witherspoon in a similar go-or-go-home match up. Thompson had little trouble dispatching the younger Witherspoon. “I think everybody has written me off my whole career. They’re still writing me off.”

Thompson says he feels better now than ever. “When I fought Wladimir, people don’t realize I just wasn’t healthy, I had torn meniscus in my knee, I wasn’t able to train at a championship level. Now as I’ve gotten older I’m healthier, and I’m able to train hard enough to fight one the Klitschko brothers.”

But Thompson also realizes the importance of not just winning, but looking good doing so if he expects to be considered a top heavyweight. “No matter how often I win, it’s always about the style points. I have to go in there with the mindset of winning, and looking good. I might even come out there with my Hector Camacho tassels on.”

For this fight Thompson has sparred with former opponent Timor Ibragimov, “he’s great work, and the perfect type of fighter to prepare me for Maurice Harris.” Thompson said.

Married 11 years, and with seven children, Thompson relishes his role of father and husband outside of the ring. “Family is number one, family is the reason why I fight.” He explains that as the reason he is not one to seek the spotlight and engage in the ridiculous pre-fight trash talking we see far too often, “Everybody expects the heavyweights to be big loud maniacs, but I tell people ‘that’s not me.’ I’ve got seven kids, when my kids see me, and they hear about me, I want them to be proud of their father, and I think I’ve done a great job at that. I’ll show up at a press conference and say my piece, but it won’t be the obnoxious type, nor disrespectful type to anybody.”

Thompson rides a four-bout winning streak, all by knockout, into the bout tonight he jokingly said is “two of the old fellas going out there trying to hold on to a small piece of their youth enough to get a piece of the championship.” But more seriously adds, ‘I think you’re going to see a good fight, Mo is hungry and in great shape, I’m hungry and in great shape.”
Both should be hungry, after all, tonight, it’s go, or go home.

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