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Dusty Hernandez-Harrison Debuts on FNF

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Tonight at the Richard J. Codey Arena in West Orange, New Jersey, welterweight contender Arthur “Dusty” Hernandez-Harrison, 19-0 (11), will make his “ESPN2 Friday Night Fights” debut. The lanky welterweight, who won his first major belt, the WBC youth silver welterweight belt, last November at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, has become a local attraction on the East Coast. An action fighter who graduated to 10 rounds in that title effort, a unanimous decision over the game Josh Torres, Hernandez-Harrison is looking to make a move up the ranks in 2014. The fight was a bit of baptism-by-fire as Dusty suffered a cut and faced adversity on a level he hadn’t before.
 
“I don’t think I should have questioned my own endurance. I was so worried about the later rounds. I realized I felt good. I don’t think I should have questioned myself and relaxed in the middle. I know that now, so I can pretty much work the whole fight,” Dusty said of his performance in a conversation with Maxboxing.com. “That’s my main adjustment.”

If you haven’t seen Hernandez-Harrison fight, he’s an aggressive boxer-puncher who is not afraid to exchange. Technically skilled, he uses his height and reach to keep foes at bay. In the Torres fight, however, he did let technique slide a bit in favor of pure fighting. So much the better for the crowd.
 
“I did get away from the few technical things,” assessed Dusty, “but it’s so much easier to say in the gym, ’I am going to hit him with this combination when he does this,’ but in the fight, things change.”
 
Dusty is trained by his father, Buddy. While some may say the father-son combo is dangerous, they seem to work well together. Buddy is a no-frills man who is honest and straightforward about his son.
 
“In our situation, it’s probably better. I’m watching him all the time. A perfect example is now. I’m watching what he is eating. It works out fine. We have a system,” said Buddy.
 
Buddy explained he will delegate responsibility to other trainers at times in order to keep Dusty working hard. The reason being, a son might get used to his dad telling him what to do. Not many trainers much less fathers would be up for this tactic but it’s clear this is best for Dusty and his career comes first.
 
“If I want him to do eight rounds on the heavy bag, I got to the heavy bag guy and I tell him, ‘Hey, have [Dusty] do eight rounds.’ If I tell [Dusty], he might say, ‘C’mon, dad,’ but he doesn’t say that to other people. Same thing with conditioning. If I tell him, it might be ‘C’mon, Dad. I’m tired,’ but he doesn’t do that with other people. It’s pretty decent,” explained Buddy.
 
When I asked Buddy if he found himself being harder or softer on his son, he conceded, “I’m more hard on him. I’m really hard on him. I want him to get up at 7 a.m. in the morning. Other fighters, I don’t have control over that. They aren’t living under my roof, so it is easier with Dusty. But he’s my son. You know it’s his career. You want him to succeed and leave nothing out. I want him to spar more rounds than probably anyone else in the gym. I’m much more hard on him on him than anyone in the gym. But it’s out of love and at the end of the day, I think he sees that.”
 
Dusty began fighting at a young age. His father, who boxed in his day, took him to the gym so his son might be able to someday defend himself.
 
“We live in South D.C. It’s a tough neighborhood. I knew coming up, it was going to be tough,” said Buddy. “So what I wanted for Dusty is for him to be able to take care of himself. I never considered the boxing as a career. I boxed a little bit but never on his level, so what I wanted for him to be able to handle himself in a tough neighborhood.”
 
Soon it became clear that beyond knowing how to defend himself, Dusty had a knack for boxing. It didn’t take long to see he would be a pro someday.
 
“When he got his [amateur boxing] license at eight years old, he won. Then he won at Golden Gloves. Then he won a National tournament.” After Dusty continued his winning trend, “then I knew I had something,” said Buddy.
 
At age 19 with 19 fights, Dusty is a young pro with solid experience. That was the goal when he turned pro in June of 2011.
 
“The Olympics were coming around and the Olympics aren’t what they used to be, so we sat down and talked with people who were interested,” said Buddy. “So we decided to go from there and turn pro. We thought about it like this: if we turned him pro at by the time these guys got started, we’d be ahead of them. And that’s exactly how it worked out. We don’t have any regrets about that at all.”
 
In 2013, Dusty fought eight times, moving up in rounds and adversity in terms of opposition. That kind of activity can wear one out but it also makes for a sharp fighter.
 
“I like it except for the last week, cutting weight,” laughed Dusty. “I don’t have trouble making weight but it’s not fun for anybody. I like fighting often, staying busy. It helps keeping me motivated. The worst thing is training for no reason. It’s hard to train at the highest intensity when you don’t have a fight planned. It keeps me busy. It keeps me motivated. I like it a lot.”
 
“If it was up to him, he’d fight every week,” said Buddy. “He’s young. He’s 19-0 and the opponents are getting a little tougher and the rounds are getting longer now. We just went to 10 rounds in New York [against Torres]. If we had our way, I think we would fight another eight this year but I doubt it. I am going to say six, maybe seven. I love him for to stay busy.”
 
One reason Dusty is able to fight so often is he sells tickets. Locally, he is well-known and his fans travel for him. At the Garden, he seemed to have a vocal and sizable crowd. Buddy Harrison also credits Jeff Fried, who lauds Dusty for moving the young fighter so well.
 
“He sells so many tickets, he is able to get on cards. There are a lot of people like Dusty, who can fight good, but unfortunately they can’t sell tickets and so no one takes an interest. [Because Dusty sells tickets], he can get on any card at any time. He’s a ticket seller,” said Buddy.
 
As for the Torres fight, Buddy loved what he saw.  He especially loved how difficult portions of the fight were for his son. As Dusty ascends the ranks, the fights will only get tougher. Better to learn the hard way now than later.
 
“He went 10 rounds in the Garden and won. I was happy,” Buddy said. “I know it’s going to sound odd but he got cut; that was beautiful. His eye shut; that was great, meaning it is a growth in boxing. You have to go through that sometimes in life, so I was actually happy about that.”
 
As for his “FNF” opponent, Tim Witherspoon Jr., “I don’t know much about Tim. As far as I know, he has never been stopped. He has a decent record. He comes from a great boxing family,” surmised Buddy, “but Dusty has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. I think we will be just fine.”
 
“I’ve watched a little bit of tape. [Witherspoon] is tall. He seems like he loves his right hand. He can take a punch. I don’t think he likes pressure. I think I will be fine,” assessed Dusty.
 
When asked if the bright lights of ESPN will make him freeze or treat the fight a different way, Harrison laughed, “Everyone thinks there is something wrong with me because I never get nervous. When I was six years old, I fought a 10-year old boy as a special attraction at a Toughman competition. It was at a night club. My dad was impressed that I didn’t get nervous. There might be something wrong with me,” he joked.
 
Or he might be a natural-born fighter built to be under the lights. Time will tell.
 
You can email Gabriel at maxgmontoya@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim, now at its new home, www.blogtalkradio.com/thenextround or via iTunes subscription at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/leave-it-in-ring-radio-blog/id316004573?mt=2. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show www.Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PT.
 
 
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