Dusty Hernandez-Harrison, the undefeated welterweight prospect who recently signed a promotional contract with rap mogul Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports, will look to become the face of the company when he headlines its first boxing event from the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.
The card, labeled “Throne Boxing,” will feature a night of fights and entertainment, including DJ Mustard, Angie Martinez and Fabolous, giving the inaugural effort a bit of flair and star power.
Hernandez-Harrison, 20, is used to performing in pressure-packed situations. The Washington, D.C. native and WBC youth welterweight champion has developed quite a fan following in and around his hometown, but he relishes the new opportunities afforded him by having Roc Nation’s wind at his back—not just for his career but for the sport as a whole.
“Everything that went into my decision [to sign with Roc Nation] has been proved right. I knew they would make it a bigger deal than just a boxing event,” Hernandez-Harrison told Bleacher Report on Wednesday.
“It’s just big. I think that’s what boxing needs to get a lot of the fans back. I run into some people who say ‘I haven’t watched boxing since Sugar Ray Leonard.' I think this is what it needs to catch a lot of the younger generation and create a lot of lifelong boxing fans.”
Hernandez-Harrison has come to the point in his career—after a breakneck pace of 24 fights in just three years—where he’s ready for new and bigger challenges.
He admits that he had a few initial concerns about staking out a new path with a promotional outfit that, while having plenty of money and might at its back, didn’t yet have a track record in the sweet science.
“That was a concern before we met them. But after talking to them, dealing with them a lot, [Roc Nation President] Michael Yormark and all the people they have over here, they’ve proved they have a plan,” Hernandez-Harrison said.
“They know what they’re doing. They don’t act like they’re new to boxing.”
Neither does Hernandez-Harrison.
You don’t find many 20-year-old fighters with his poise or boxing IQ, but even with all that in his back pocket, the pressure of Madison Square Garden for a young fighter in such a big event can be enormous.
He’s fought there two previous times—once at the Theater and once in the main room—impressively winning both bouts.
But winning in non-televised undercard bouts is one thing, and doing it on the biggest stage is quite another.
How does he manage the pressure as a young fighter? He enjoys the moment and savors the new experiences.
“It’s been really fun. A lot of the promotional things they [Roc Nation] did for this one I didn’t get to do for a lot of other fights. Like the media call, I know that’s minor, but it was fun for me,” Hernandez-Harrison said.
“Everything’s new. It’s been a while since I’ve had some new experiences in boxing. This whole fight, everything has been fun leading up to it. It’s really helped me stay motivated and training. When you’re enjoying something, it’s a lot easier to do. It really pushed me. I trained harder for this fight, and I’m just looking forward to it.”
Hernandez’s opponent on Friday night will be Long Island’s Tommy Rainone.
Rainone, 34, isn’t well-known outside of hardcore New York boxing circles, but the Plainview native comes to fight and has never been knocked down or stopped in a professional career spanning 28 bouts.
Is he a world-beater? Absolutely not.
But this is the type of fight that can sometimes trip up a young fighter.
Overlooking a foe at this stage of the game can be disastrous, but Hernandez-Harrison believes his foe is the one who's doing the underestimating.
“I think I’m going to go in there and put pressure on him a little bit, kind of take the fight to him, show him this isn’t going to be an easy 10 rounds. For some reason he’s thinking that he’s going to take me to a place I’ve never been. He’s only been 10 rounds twice. I’ve been once,” he said.
“His two times were a slow-paced 10 rounds where he was controlling the pace. When I did my 10 rounds with Josh Torres right here in the same place [MSG], it was a high-paced 10 rounds. It was back and forth. I got cut. I think that was 10 rounds he’s never been before.”
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.