“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…”
Huddled together with his team in the locker room, the Lord’s Prayer is said before each and every fight. There are no superstitious rituals or arrogant hoopla that surround one of boxing’s brightest up-and-coming stars, Dusty Hernandez-Harrison.
The 20 year-old Washington, D.C. native’s undefeated 24-0 record, and his ferocious prowess in the ring, are the reason he’s on the verge of becoming one of the world’s most elite welterweight boxers. Currently, Harrison is ranked #15 in the world by the World Boxing Organization (WBO) and #17 by the World Boxing Council (WBC) in the welterweight division. However, he refuses to let it go to his head insisting “I have to credit my parents. They raised me to always be humble. You will never hear me brag, I know my whole career can change with just one mistake, one punch.”
Having boxed since he was a toddler, Harrison’s father and trainer, Buddy, drilled into him a lifestyle devoted to the sport. Buddy, an ex-con, saw boxing as an outlet that could provide a better life for his son, especially compared to the one that he had chosen for himself.
Harrison’s commitment to boxing is undeniable. By the age of 17 he had 197 amateur fights under his belt and a number of National Championships. In June of 2011, he decided to forgo his amateur status and made his professional boxing debut in Mississippi, becoming the youngest professional fighter in the United States. In this match he scored a decisive 40-36 victory (scored by all three judges) over seasoned veteran Alphonso Alexander, a man more than twice his age.
The wins and knockouts have continued to pile-up over the last three years. Harrison is in the gym five days a week, training four hours each day with his father. “There has been a lot of sacrifice to get to this point. Just as I gave up a big part of my childhood for boxing, my dad could have very well been spending time with my stepmom or taking a vacation, instead we were training or traveling for fights. You can’t be a boxer part-time. It’s been a full-time thing for him and I since before I even stepped foot in a classroom for school,” he said.
All of the hard work is paying off as people around the world are beginning to take notice of Harrison’s talent. He’s been described as “Washington’s best boxing prospect since Sugar Ray Leonard.” He takes the compliment in stride saying, “The DC area has produced great fighters over the years with Sugar Ray Leonard leading the way, and just to be a part of it, and have my name mentioned with Leonard and the other greats is an honor.”
Harrison wants to be the WBC Welterweight Champion of the World. What once was a childhood dream is now a goal that is within reach. This is not to say that obstacles don’t stand in his way. “Just knowing when is the right time to take that big fight, sometimes you have to pass it up knowing that you as a fighter will be bigger, stronger, more mature and just a better fighter the next time an opportunity comes around – the only issue is how many chances will you really get,” he said.
To assist Harrison in making these tough decisions, he enlisted the services of All In Entertainment to help promote him. All In was founded by renowned sports agent and DC-based attorney, Jeff Fried, NBA superstar, Monta Ellis and world renowned poker player, Phil Ivey. His partnership with All In has been fruitful thus far: he went 8-0 in 2013 and fought on the world’s biggest stage, Madison Square Garden, for the WBC Youth Welterweight World Championship. He scored a ten-round unanimous decision against Josh “Pit Bull” Torres for the title.
Harrison does not take his close-knit inner circle for granted. “I just have to surround myself with people who want what’s best for me. Boxing has become a lot more of a business than actually fighting, so you really have to be as careful outside the ring as you do in. As long as I have a trustworthy team around me it lets me focus on what I have to do to keep winning,” he says.
This year Harrison has continued to climb in the World rankings and he’s had his first two live nationally televised fights on ESPN, including an eight-round unanimous decision against Wilfredo Acuna at Madison Square Garden in July.
However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, Harrison’s most recent bout against Michael Clark was delayed a little more than a month because he twisted his ankle while training, his first professional injury. Yet, he remained confident in his training and rehabilitation in the days leading up to his rescheduled fight with Clark. He was more concerned with making his weight than he was with his ankles recovery.
“You will never hear me brag, I know my whole career can change with just one mistake, one punch.”
“6 God” by Drake comes over the PA system and Harrison is introduced at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington DC. He is led in by his father, no hype men and none of the pre-fight antics that have become a familiar part of boxing culture. He navigates his way through the crowd to a roaring applause and ovation. He is shirtless and robeless, looking straight ahead, not phased by the excitement of his impending fight. “Every once in a while I might wear a little more showy outfit but you’ll still never see me dancing around with a loud entourage. I’ve seen to many fighters come out like that and end up getting knocked out. You have got to stay focused in this sport,” he said.
This was the first time Harrison had fought in his hometown in a year and a half. His opponent, Michael Clark was being touted as his most formidable opponent to date. It had been over a year since Harrison had gone 10-rounds in a fight and his team looked at the 41-year-old Clark (44-12-1, 18 knockouts) as someone that could test both his mental and physical toughness.
From the get-go Harrison was in attack mode, landing a series of jabs and a number of body blows, which led to a lightening-fast overhand right – the knockout blow. Clark fell against the ropes and would not get back up. Harrison was declared the winner by TKO (Technical Knockout), one-minute and 42 seconds into the first-round.
After the fight Harrison acknowledged this was his most impressive KO (Knockout) to date. He said, “As soon as I landed the punch I knew he [Clark] was at least going down and after I saw the way he fell, I knew it was over.”
Not getting ahead of himself Harrison realizes that he is an undefeated boxer with everything to lose, knowing it could all slip away, “It only takes one punch to turn your career upside down, I’ve seen it plenty of times and even came close to it happening to me, luckily I had it in me to get up, keep fighting and win the fight.”
Harrison’s fights are only going to get tougher, the crowds bigger and the media coverage greater. He is 24-0 with 13 knockouts. Every fight there is going to be the added pressure to remain undefeated, but all of this is a blessing. Harrison is one of those rare people who has the work ethic to match his desire to become what he dreams, a WBC World Champion Welterweight boxer.