Tony Harrison came in with the hype and the undefeated record, but it was Willie Nelson who leaves Tampa's Sun Dome with the win, as he scored a come from behind TKO at the end of round nine to beat the Kronk prospect, handing Harrison his first pro loss in what was easily his biggest fight to date.
Nelson (24-2-1, 14 KO) started pretty well, but Harrison seemed to have him figured out by the middle rounds, using an effective jab that kept Nelson neutralized, even if it did lead to some booing from the audience, which was largely there to see main event fighter Keith Thurman.
With Harrison (21-1, 18 KO) seemingly firmly in control, the fight suddenly ended just before the conclusion of the ninth round, as Harrison was caught with a series of shots that appeared at first to stun him, before he fell straight onto his backside, whacking his skull on the bottom rope as he hit the canvas. Harrison was clearly in bad shape, but got to his feet, where he turned his back in the corner, moving referee Frank Santore to stop the fight.
"The plan was to take him into deep water. That's why I was relaxing, but I got the job done with two right hands," Nelson told ESPN's Bernardo Osuna. When "I really don't know what it does to my career. I want one of the world champs. Any one of them will do," he said, specifically saying he'd like to face Demetrius Andrade. He added, "Since everyone else is getting on the Floyd Mayweather bandwagon, give me him, too."
"I let the anxiety get to me. I just felt the anxiousness to knock him out, went in reckless and got caught with a shot. I felt like I was winning the whole fight. I wanted to give Detroit something to look at. I let my city down tonight, but believe I'm going 100,000 percent harder. A guy I shouldn't have lost to. The shot was behind the head, man, but no excuses. The ref did what he had to do."
Harrison also said, "I was trying too hard with every shot, man. It's a lesson learned."