Sunday, December 14, 2003

Whyyyyy? Whyyyyy? 'To succeed in life'

Counter-punch: Harding whacks away at boxing career

By Nick Jezierny
The Idaho Statesman

BOISE, Idaho - Tonya Harding really, really wants to be a regular person.

And when you get past her immense amount of baggage, that's just what the former Olympic-caliber figure skater, who wants to be a professional boxer, claims to be.

Tonya Harding tries to get up off the mat during her match with Samantha Browning in February. Browning defeated Harding in a split decision.
(AP photo)
"I'm just me - I'm a person just like everyone else is," Harding said. "I have feelings just like everybody else. I just want to succeed in life, and as long as I go out and do the best that I can, I know I can succeed."

Skating's former drama queen is a part of a Jan. 24 fight card in Boise, Idaho, dubbed "The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful."

Cleveland Corder, a Boise resident, is the good. Mia St. John, the former Playboy centerfold, has the beautiful adjective cornered. That leaves Harding with - you guessed it - the bad.

Harding gained that reputation after the 1994 attack on fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan and the resulting scandal once Harding's involvement was uncovered. Skating in risque Las Vegas shows only fed her image. And don't forget the famous hubcap-throwing incident or that graphic honeymoon video.

"To be me is very difficult sometimes," Harding said. "I may have a bone or two in my closet, but so does everyone else. No one is perfect."

Harding discovered boxing in an event that had "freak show" written all over it. In a televised celebrity boxing match on Fox TV, she fought Paula Jones, who became notorious with her sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton.

Harding seemed none the worse for wear as she posed with opponent Samantha Browning after their February fight.
(AP photo)
"It was a lot of fun," Harding said. "Some very high-up people in the boxing world came up and asked if I would consider boxing ... they said, 'It looks like you have what it takes.' "

Harding appears to be perfect for boxing, a sport plagued by corruption, greed, scandal and Don King. She likes it for other reasons.

"It doesn't matter what you wear or how you talk," Harding said. "It's all about who the better athlete is. It's all about strength and power. I think everyone knows when I was skating I wasn't graceful, I was all about power and athletic ability."

Harding has had five professional fights and sports a 3-2 record. Her first fight came on the undercard of a Mike Tyson fight.

"Great combination," said Paul Brown, who serves as Harding's manager and trainer. "But Tonya definitely has been accepted in the world of boxing as far as who she is and her ability."

Is her boxing career just another publicity stunt?

"If this was a publicity stunt, do you think I'd work my rear end off six hours a day for the past year?" she said.

The Harding file

Age: 32

Weight: 123 pounds

Nickname: America's Bad Girl

Record: 3-2

Noteworthy: Boxing career was launched when she beat Paula Jones in celebrity match; lost split decision in pro debut in December 2002; in last fight in August, was knocked out 1:13 into first round in a bout staged in the parking lot of a Dallas strip club.

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