A walk-off run home
A run-of-the-mill preliminary bout last Friday night, at the Armory in Minneapolis, became a viral curiosity as heavyweight journeyman Curtis Harper stunningly left the ring, as the bell sounded for his bout versus undefeated prospect Efe Ajagba.
— PBC (@premierboxing) August 25, 2018
Yeah, just when you think you’ve seen it all in the theater of the unexpected, this happens.
Ronnie Shields, who trains Ajagba, believes Harper should be banned from the sport and was still outraged by his walk-off. Shields, a former fighter himself, believes that, while Harper said he was protesting the treatment he had received from the promotion and his pay for this assignment, once a boxer steps through the ropes, he has an obligation to go through with the fight.
“Absolutely, you have a duty to fight,” stated Shields on Monday afternoon. “Look, I don’t know if this guy has kids or if he is close to any kids. What is he going to tell them? What can he say to them? That makes him look like a man?”
On the flipside, Ajagba was deprived of the opportunity to show his skills to a national audience.
“He was disappointed,” Shields said of his boxer. “The guy didn’t even try; the guy gave up and didn’t even try. Why accept the fight and then afterwards somebody told me, ‘Well, they weren’t paying him enough money’ – so why did you sign the contract? If it wasn’t enough money, don’t accept the fight. Why accept the plane tickets? They spent three tickets on him, hotel rooms, per diem and transportation to and from the airport and you get in the ring and embarrass yourself like that?”
Shields says he expects Ajagba to be scheduled for his next bout in late September. Rest assured, Ajagba was paid for his troubles.
Ajagba is promoted by Ringstar Sports, led by Richard Schaefer, who said of Harper, “I think any promoter who would book him to do a fight would be a fool because obviously you can’t count on him. And the excuse he gave to the PBC reporter Jordan (Hardy), that he wanted to make a statement with his pay dispute, I mean, this is bullshit. You know it’s bullshit because somebody agrees to a purse. You negotiate the purse. You agree on the amount. You sign the contract.
“The (Minnesota State) commission is aware of it. The guy comes in; he flies in for fight week. He goes through the weigh-in; he enters the ring and he looks at the guy and says, ‘Hell no; I’m outta here.’ That has nothing to do with the pay dispute – that has to do with that he saw (Ajagba) and he was afraid of him. And frankly, you can’t blame the guy and I’m sure he’s not going to be the first one who’s going to be afraid of Efe. I hope he’s the last one who’s going to walk out of the ring.”
Perhaps fear was a factor but Harper is a guy who had a memorable battle back in 2015 with Chris Arreola on SPIKE and has served several times as a sparring partner for WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. No, Harper isn’t a contender but is the type of trial horse who is valuable to the sport. And these types are usually brought in as opponents to boxers on the way up, earning modest purses at best. One source says he was under the impression that he believed his fight would not be part of the televised portion of the card last Friday and therefore agreed to his $6,000 purse.
Veteran boxing guy Rick Glaser had this to say on behalf of Harper (via email):
“On Saturday night, August 25, I was retained by Curtis Harper and his wife Sandra to deal with the State of Minnesota Boxing Commission, regarding the repercussions relating to the ‘fight’ the previous night, held in Minneapolis, on FS1.
“Curtis Harper is a real professional and had previously competed in 18 professional bouts before Friday, with a respectable 13-5 record, and, in one of those defeats, gave three-time world heavyweight championship challenger Chris Arreola ‘all he could handle,’ in losing a disputed decision to Arreola on national TV.
“Also Curtis Harper has been to and sparred with current WBC world heavyweight champion and knockout artist Deontay Wilder for at least four fights and many other top heavyweights too numerous to mention.
“Curtis Harper fears no man and the truth will be discovered after the Minnesota Boxing Commission investigates this matter in its entirety.
“We all need to sit back and let the investigative bodies for the State of Minnesota do their due diligence before anyone ‘jumps to judgement.’
“Let’s now let the State of Minnesota do their work.
“Curtis Harper is a quality man, an excellent father to his children and a professional fighter with pride. And Curtis’ name will be ‘righted’ when the truth is reveled.
According to James Honerman, the agency spokesperson for the Minnesota Office of Combative Sports, “As far as we know, the promoter withheld the payment. (Harper) wasn’t paid for the fight. Right now we’re gathering info and reviewing details and we’re going to make a determination about his license in the coming week.”
But whether or not Harper is suspended for a significant amount of time, whether he was justified in his actions or not, he may have a difficult time getting fights moving forward. He may become persona non grata in the fight business.
“Listen, as you know, I was the victim of this with (Hasim) Rahman Jr. within the last year and I think. if somebody does this. it should be a lifetime ban,” said veteran promoter Greg Cohen, who, last year, had a situation when Joseph (Turn) Coats decided he didn’t want to face the son of the former undisputed heavyweight champion after all.
Cohen continued, “And this is having nothing against Curtis Harper, just as a rule of thumb. People actually tell me that Harper’s a very good guy but there has to be a certain integrity to the sport and you can’t do that.”
In the aftermath of all this, Harper has set up a GoFundme page.
GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS
On the bright side, Ajagba got a lot of traction from what took place on Friday night (as various clips of Harper’s exit stage left were viewed a few million times on various sites) and, with it officially being listed as a one-second fight, a new record (that can’t ever be broken) was set.
So perhaps they try to get this listed officially with the Guinness Book of World Records?
Schaefer said with a laugh, “We are actually going to do that for the shortest win ever. That was amazing. This is now not just boxing fans but sports fans, as well as the general public – everybody is talking about the guy. So the next time he fights, people are going to want to watch him. Who wouldn’t want to watch this guy?”
The Gennady Golovkin-Saul Alvarez rematch on September 15 can be viewed in movie theaters across the country through Fathom Events…Last Saturday night’s broadcast on ESPN averaged 532,000 viewers…Yeah, I’m still a believer in Jim Harbaugh…While HBO’s “Ballers” continues to waver, “Insecure” just keeps getting better and better…”Snowfall” on FX is a quality program…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.