Dusty Hernandez-Harrison is looking to take the next big step in his boxing career. At the tender age of 20, the 6-foot-tall welterweight has already made a name for himself as a boxing prodigy out of Washington DC area with a strong fan base that has seen the likes of local emcees such as Wale looking on from ringside. With a pristine record of 24-0 (13 knockouts), “The Beltway Boricua” will look to start 2015 off with a bang when he headlines Roc Nation Sports’ first throne boxing main event on January 9 when he faces Tommy Rainone (22-5-1). Life+Times caught up with the young prospect to discuss his upcoming bout, throwing combinations ever since he was in a onesie and beating Manny Pacquiao.
Life+Times: You turned pro at 17, which suggests that boxing has been part of your life for a long time. What would you be doing if you weren’t boxing?
Dusty Hernandez-Harrison: I never thought about doing anything else because I boxed so young that I don’t know what it’s like not to box. It was just a part of life for me. Today, I wouldn’t trade it for anything but back then it was like school and simply part of what I did every day. I didn’t think of it as a choice it was just what I did.
L+T: You said you’ve been throwing combinations ever since you were in a onesie. Did boxing keep you out of trouble?
DHH: I grew up in the southeast of DC. If you ask people from DC what the bad parts of DC are they will tell you the southeast. I’ve been in the same neighborhood my whole life. I had the usual troubles you get into in a bad neighborhood. It’s funny because where I grew up was 90-95% black and for a long time, before I started leaving DC, I thought white people were the minority. It wasn’t until I entered my first national tournament in August, Georgia that I saw a bunch of white people. Because of boxing I began to realize what America really was. I was only 10 years old at the time. My neighborhood was all right because I’ve been here so long. I am part of the neighborhood. My dad was from here. I would say boxing helped me out because after school I was going to the gym. I didn’t have time to run around and get into trouble.
L+T: Many father-son pairings in boxing end up falling apart. Your father, Buddy Harrision, has been by your side since the beginning and introduced you to boxing at two years old. What was your relationship like with him?
DHH: Growing up was rough because once boxing entered the picture it drew all of the heat between us. Boxing always came first. I didn’t get to enjoy doing things after school like a normal kid would. We had a lot of problems growing up and they all came from boxing. My parents were split up and I went back and forth between their homes as a kid and, literally, the only thing they argued about was me being in boxing. But I think because I boxed for long and it’s been such a serious part of my life that we went through the trials early. Now we both realize that we both have to give and take. As for father’s who train their kids, maybe they get jealous of their kids wanting to do something different or bringing different people in. But when I want somebody else to wrap my hands, which I do, he’s okay with that. As long as he’s the one in my corner, like he has been my entire life, he’s okay with everything. We did all of our falling out at a younger age so we got it worked out now. It got real bad during my teenage years. I was in high school and wanted to do other things and it started to get overwhelming. But we’ve worked everything out. I mean, we still argue everyday but it’s different.
L+T: You’re headlining Roc Nation’s first boxing card. How did you feel when you got the call?
DHH: I was honored. There are plenty of other fighters out there that they could have picked. My family was happy and my friends think it’s the coolest thing in the world. I mean, who doesn’t want to box for a promotion that has JAY Z’s name attached to it?
L+T: You’re fighting Tommy Rainone, who is a step up in competition for you. He’s older and experienced but what do you see are the pros and cons of your opponent?
DHH: The biggest thing that is said against Tommy that he doesn’t hit hard and I should be able to walk through his punches. But the thing is that he has always gone the distance because of his lack of power. He knows what it is like to go ten rounds. The 8th, 9th and 10th rounds are hard to get through and he’s done it. They also say he’s too old but because of his age he definitely has the mental preparation down. My father always said that when you are older your will power is stronger. It’s easier for him to prepare the right way before the fight because of his age. With every con there is a pro to him. Fighting wise, he’s a real slick guy. He’s a southpaw who doesn’t really get caught with many clean shots. That’s why he always goes the distance. I’m going to be prepared no matter what and I’m not going in there expecting the knockout.
L+T: Assuming you get past Rainone, what’s your plan for 2015?
DHH: I don’t know. I just want to stay busy because its easier to train when you have a fight coming up. You can go through the exact same workout week to week but if you have a fight coming up the workout is more intense. I want to fight just as many times this year. Obviously the quality of opponents can’t go backwards so the fights will be tougher.
L+T: I know it’s a bit premature, but your father did say that you could whoop Manny Pacquiao…
DHH: (Laughs) That’s just my dad. But the reason he says that is because he’s never put me in the ring and I just have been completely outclassed by another boxer from the time I was eight-years-old. That’s why he’s so confident in me. I’ve never lost clearly.
Dusty Hernandez-Harrison takes on Tommy Rainone at Roc Nation Sports’ throne boxing main event on January 9, 2015 at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden. Tickets are available here.