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Unbeaten Harrison meets Smith on FNF

3/5/2015

Unbeaten Tony Harrison returns to action on Friday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in the main event of ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" (ESPN2, 11 p.m. ET).

Harrison (19-0, 16 KOs), a rising junior middleweight prospect from Detroit, will face veteran Antwone Smith (23-5-1, 12) from Miami in a 10-round bout.

Smith is back following a 19-month absence from the ring after being knocked out in the second round of his last fight in August 2013 against Jermall Charlo. Smith says he's very excited about this opportunity and seems confident of victory.

As an amateur, Smith won the Golden Gloves of Florida when he just 17, and his achievements include victories over important opponents such as Jose Luis Castillo and Ronald Cruz.

Regardless, in the lead-up to this clash, all that pales in comparison to the crushing form of Harrison, who at 24 has impressed with his punching power. He has stopped 16 of 19 opponents, nine of which have been as early as the first round.

In addition to the brutal KO suffered against Charlo, which was the worst defeat in his career, Smith has been inactive and rusty, which could complicate his fighting. On the other hand, Harrison, who has never gone beyond the eighth round in any of his fights, has beaten three experienced opponents: Grady Brewer, Bronco McKart and Tyrone Brunson.

A native of Detroit, Harrison will step into the ring eager to put on a show and take one step closer to a possible world title shot.

Harrison's record backs him up, too, and Smith may be a perfect barometer to measure his ascent. Harrison is an aggressive fighter with a fearsome right, but he can also do damage with his left hook. Smith isn't a big puncher, but the Miami native is very technical, with good footwork and defense.

One of many fighters promoted by Al Haymon, Harrison knows that a convincing victory can take him to a new level in his career, and he's very confident he'll get an early knockout.

"Smith is desperate to save his career. All the pressure is on him, but my plan won't change because of that," Harrison said. "Ultimately, the fight will end like it always does."

On the undercard, the man to watch is undefeated Ukrainian Ievgen Khytrov (8-0, 8 KOs), who takes on Puerto Rico's Jorge Melendez (28-4-1, 26 KOs) in a 10-round middleweight fight.

With good technique and a powerful right hand, Khytrov is an aggressive fighter who has knocked out all his opponents. Melendez, an experienced fighter who has faced respectable opponents and who is coming off a split-decision loss to Argentine Javier Francisco Maciel, will serve as a test for any aspirations harbored by Khytrov, who is currently considered one of the most promising fighters in his weight class.