News May 2019

Vivian Harris talks career turn around hopes to get rematch with Ortiz at 147


By Michael J Jones

Vivian Harris

Former WBA light-welterweight champion Vivian “Vicious” Harris certainly shocked a lot of people last month when upsetting welterweight prospect Danny O’Connor in Philadelphia. The Guyana-born Harris edged his much-younger opponent by split-decision after ten brisk rounds to stop a bad run of form over the previous five years.

Now 31-9-2 (19), the 35-year-old “Vicious” was keen to put his story straight about his virtual isolation from boxing following the loss of his title eight years ago. The man who holds victories over the likes of Diobelys Hurtado, Souleymane M’Baye, Otkay Urkal and Stevie Johnston, feels he has been unfairly treated in recent years by certain quarters of the boxing establishment while simply trying to continue his career.

After a run consisting of defeats to Lucas Matthysse and Victor Ortiz among others, the former champion has discovered his hunger for boxing again and has won his last two contests this year to stop the rot.

Pulling no punches about his career frustrations, here’s what Vivian had to tell Livefight a few days ago…

LF) Firstly congratulations on your recent win over Danny O’ Connor. Talk us through the fight and what did you make of the peculiar scoring?

VH) The fight with Danny O'Connor was a good fight. I worked hard (to get in shape) and got (notice) to train for it and the fight before (both victories this year). I also got to look at fights of O’Connor to get to prepare for him. It was not a two weeks notice (assignment) like the ones I had when I got the losses after I moved up to 147lbs.

The O'Connor fight was an easy one because he’s a fighter that just comes straight forward and wants to keep you on the ropes. They wanted to rob me that night but Jesus was looking over me, they had the first judge to do what he did (scoring a shut-out to O’Connor) but God is good.

They’ve asked for a rematch, I say yes to one, if I fight Danny O'Connor again I'm going to stop him. All I want right now is to get a rematch with either Jessie Vargas or Victor Ortiz at 147 because, right after my fight with them, they moved up to welterweight. Why could I not be their first (opponent) at 147? It’s because they just wanted to take the “Vicious” name before they go (up in weight) and say they have a win over me but its okay. I'll be the last man standing because they do not have the talent and the heart and work hard like me.

LF) Tommy Rainone called you out recently how likely is that fight to happen and have you seen him box?

VH) I am happy Tommy has called me out. Once we have a promoter that wants to put the fight on it’s the next win for me because I (currently) do not have a good promoter. My goal is to win every fight that comes in front of me now.

LF) Many people thought you were finished at 35 after going just 1-6-1 in the previous five years. Did the negative press spur you on to your recent success with two straight wins this year?

VH) I do not care what some of the press say about me; some of them do not even know anything about boxing. I care about what God says now (instead of) what people say and once I wake up I go and do what he put me on this earth to do and that's boxing
It's never going to stop (the press) are going to always put someone down that believes in not giving up. Sometime I wonder what these people teach their kids; when you fall you have to get up.

What I am about to do now is going to show the kids and people its what Jesus says it’s not over until he says over. Remember this interview he is going to use the same people to get me back to the top. I'm becoming world champion again. Some press talk a lot of crap about fighters for the promoters.

LF) Of the losses you endured in recent years to fighters such as Victor Ortiz and Lucas Matthysse were there any you felt were unfair defeats?

VH) The Lucas Matthysse fight I had him beat in Mexico. It was one of the worst a stoppages in boxing (Harris was halted in four though it did look a strange stoppage).

The Victor Ortiz fight they knew I could not make 140 anymore and did not want me to fight him at welterweight. When I asked them to make the fight at 147 (my team) said it was a good fight for me; that's why I went ahead and took it. While training for the fight I suffer an injury. I did not pull out the fight and still went ahead and fought him because I knew he wasn’t a fighter but, that night, he fought a smart fight by staying away from me and boxing.

From then on I start getting calls to fight on short notice and you know a man with a family with bills to pay is not going to say no. When I got a call for the Jessie Vargas fight I said ‘yes’ and I tried to get it to be at 147 or 145 they said no and that was at three weeks notice. I had to take that fight because the fight before was seven months earlier with Victor Ortiz and I did not get paid for that fight. I had a judgment against me with Main Events that I did not know about.

Harris beats Urkal in Germany

When fights were coming on short notice, I was just taking them to make money. The Brian Rose fight in London, I went there to fight him at 154lbs and he could not even make it and he says right there he wasn’t going to make it. I said I wasn’t going to fight so his promoter said they were not going to pay me so I say I am not going to come all the way here and not get paid so I fight lost the fight and retired.

Before that I had to stop loving boxing and the way how (promoters abuse) fighters. No-one cares about a fighter just his family. Some of my good friends wrote to me and said “do not retire Vicious, you have a lot left in you”, so what I did was I started looking back at my fights and other fights and stayed in the gym everyday and I started working on things I used to do and I start back getting to love to be in the gym. I remember I was in church and I was asking God to help me to get back the way I use to fight better.

They just have good people promoting them and they get to prepare for their fights like I used to when I was coming up. I had promoters that just wanted to use me and when I put a stop to it, I was the bad one in the boxing industry. I guess it's because I'm from the islands so they thought they could just use me. I'm not a bad person to work with but when people can not get you to do what they want you to do to benefit them and not you, you are the bad guy…well I will take that name.

LF) Going back to the start of your career, you won your first 16 fights in the USA and have fought continuously high class opposition since then. Does any part of you regret turning pro in America where the standard is so tough?

VH) No I have no regrets, the best thing to happen to me was turning pro in America…I just did so with the wrong people (who had) bad intentions for me.

LF) After suffering only one defeat in your first four years of being a pro, you stepped up to beat very respectable contenders such as Golden Johnson and Michael Clarke. Your big chance came against WBA champion Diobelys Hurtado in October 2002. He was a tough Cuban fighter who had only lost to Pernell Whitaker and Kostya Tszyu yet you wiped him out in just two rounds

Can you describe the moment when you were announced as the world light-welterweight champion after the win?

VH) I was very happy becoming champion of the world for my family and my friends and fans. God did that for me so I could enrich a lot of people. My world title fight was a great fight (for me).I worked hard on things that would trouble him in that fight and I stuck to the game-plan to get the victory.

LF) In nearly three years as the WBA champion you would make only three defences; why were you so inactive in that period and was there a particular fight you wanted at that time?

VH) Because everything was just for (Main Events). Every one of those defences my promoters made 33 percent from me because of the contract I signed when I was 19-years-old. I did not know any lawyer, I had just come from Guyana five years earlier to win the New York Golden Gloves and (Main Events) sign me up. I just wanted to get on because I know I'm going to do good with the right people behind me but they started taking advantage of me after I become champion of the world. They sent me to Germany twice to defend my title with the same guy (Oktay Urkal). Before that my first defence they lost the purse bid to Don King. From all of that I see they didn't want me to make any money, right after I came back from Germany the second time.

Yes I always wanted to fight the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr and Miguel Cotto. They were my number one (contender) at one time for my championship there were a lot of good fights out here in America. For a promoter when a fighter becomes a champion you promote him so everyone can know who he are not just make money off of him and send him to different places to fight not even on TV.

LF) You surprisingly lost the belt to Columbian puncher Carlos Maussa in June 2005. You had never shown any weakness around your chin and had never been stopped before what happened?

VH) My promoters had asked me to go to London and fight Ricky Hatton for $750,000 with 33 percent to go to them and 20 percent to my manager at that time. I said no get me a million dollars so I could come up with something because I also have to pay 25 percent in taxes too. That's why the fight didn't happen with me Ricky Hatton.

Then they asked me to fight (Maussa) on a Mayweather card and I took the fight. I bought ringside tickets worth $10,000 for my family yet on the night of the fight my family was sitting in the stands. I got mad at (the promoters) and went into the fight angry and lost my world championship. I’m not taking anything away from Carlos Maussa he fought a determined fight; even though he hit me when I was on the ground. He won the fight, then they sent him to fight Ricky Hatton. That's what they wanted all the time; you see what these promoters do? They never lose, they send you to fight and get options on the winner. They do not care about the fighter once you lose.

A lot of new promoters are out now. I just hope that they clean the sport up because boxing is a beautiful sport. Two men going in there and giving their all after preparing two months for it, not touching the wife, not seeing they kids, because they are in camp preparing for war…then the promoter wants to send them home with nothing.

Controversial: Harris vs Matthysse

LF) You came back with three solid wins to set up a WBC title fight with Junior Witter in the UK. It was expected to be a close fight but he won resoundingly; did you under-estimate him a little?

VH) When I become number one in the world (winning a WBC title eliminator vs Juan Lazcano) I could not make 140 anymore. I was eating one meal a day going back up to the number one spot. The Witter fight was a great fight too, he had a great game plan, I had a bad one and he got the victory. Even though the situation I was in there (being severely weight-weakened), I give him credit.

LF) You must dread the thought of boxing in the UK again after your experiences over here (vs Witter, Barnes and Rose)?

VH) I love fighting in the UK I will always come to fight. I got a call to fight Frankie Gavin for December 21st I said yes to everything and they never called me back. I then go on ‘Boxrec’ and see he is fighting someone else! I wish Gavin all the best I hope to get (the fight) sometime when they're ready.

LF) Who do you think would have won had Witter had fought Ricky Hatton in a fight the UK boxing fans long cried out for?

VH) Hatton would have won that fight with Witter.

LF) Is it true you were at one time trained by a man who once knocked out your brother (Lennox Blackmoore)?

VH) Yes (Lennox) Blackmoore was my trainer. He fought my brother when I was a kid. I am training with Raymond Big now, someone that I came up with. He is helping me to get back to my old self and doing things that I used to do.

Note: Blackmoore stopped Wayne Harris in June 1986 for the Guyanese title. The bout came two days before Vivian’s eighth birthday. Wayne Harris would later box Reggie Johnson for the WBA middleweight title.

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