FORMER two-time world heavyweight title challenger Chris Arreola returned to action this past Friday, with the intention of knocking out little-known opponent Curtis Harper on the Andre Berto-Josesito Lopez card in Ontario, California. Instead, in an eight-round war, Arreola was pushed to the limit by the determined fighter from Florida.

Neither guy was in great physical condition yet the action proved thoroughly entertaining, with both big men exchanging bombs all night long. In the end, Arreola won a unanimous decision, yet Harper, now 12-4(8) and trained by former lightweight ruler Nate Campbell, says the showing he gave, and the appreciation he enjoyed from the fans, has added to his confidence.

Here the man known as “The Hurt” talks to Boxing News about the slugfest and his plans for the future:

Q: The fight you and Arreola had was a real barnburner and plenty of fans want to say thank you to both of you! Although you lost, have you had positive things said to you for your effort?

Curtis Harper: “Yes, I’ve had good feedback. And I believe that will turn me into a better fighter.”

Q: How hurt were you when he knocked you down in the opening round?

C.H: “That was more surprise, nerves and everything, they got the better of me. I was overwhelmed being on such a big stage, with my name up [on a big screen] and everything. That was really exciting.”

Q: You got up and came fighting back hard, with both of you slugging it out. Did you think the decision win he got was fair, with one judge having him up by just one point and another judge having Arreola by five?

C.H: “I felt like he won. The reason is, I know I’m a much better fighter than what I exposed. He showed his experience and he kept his poise. He was the Chris Arreola I thought he’d be. I think the judges could have done a better job of the scoring, but I knew going in how my cards were dealt: his promoter, his backyard and me fighting him; Chris Arreola. I knew I had to go and get him and I was going for it. I wish the fight had been scheduled for a few more rounds, maybe 15-rounds, like in the old days.”

Q: Would you like a rematch?

C.H: “I would love a rematch! In a rematch, I’ll knock him out inside six rounds. There’s no way the rematch goes past six.”

Q: And being realistic, what chances are there of you getting that rematch?

C.H: “Slim and none (laughs). This is boxing. I was brought in as the opponent. I know I was supposed to lose. And Chris is 33 (actually 34) and he’s a million dollar fighter, who has fought for the world title. He should stick to fighting for world titles. His stock is so much higher than mine; why would he bring me back and do it again? I mean, if he’d beaten Bermane [Stiverne] would he have given him a rematch? I can scream for a rematch, but until I can put 3,000 fans in an arena… He’s going to keep going for world titles and I say to him, ‘go and get it.’ But of course I would absolutely love a rematch.”

Q: What was your amateur background, Curtis?

C.H: “I had close to 30 amateur fights. I started boxing at around 15 or 16. My amateur career came as discipline for me, it chastised me. I was a troubled kid and boxing gave me what I needed. I love it and I fight because boxing is my life, I don’t just fight for money. I won two Golden Gloves and I fought in one National Golden Gloves, coming third. I have three wonderful kids, two being twins, and I had to go pro, to earn some money.”

Q: Your manager, Thomas Hickey, tells me you’d like to come to the U.K to fight some of the name fighters we have here?

C.H: “I would love to come to the U.K. I’m an all-out fighter and I’ll fight anybody. I don’t need any promoter telling me what to do; I’ll fight one guy and then the next guy. I am boxing. I’m not a world title contender or a world champion – I’m just Curtis. But I’m a fighter. I’ve been called all manner of things, from bum, to this and that. But I’ll fight anyone, it’s what I do.”

Q: Ideally, how soon would you like to fight again?

C.H: “The way I’m feeling, I’ll fight next week (laughs). I’ll fight this Friday! I don’t think the [Arreola] fight has taken a lot out of me, it’s put a lot in; as in confidence, strength and understanding what I need to do and what I can do. Deontay [Wilder] and Bermane, I’m not at their level but I feel like I can beat a lot of guys. I’ll take on anyone.”

Q: You actually lost your pro debut back in 2010, by first-round TKO. What happened?

C.H: “Nerves. That year of my pro debut was the year my kids were born and I wasn’t ready to fight. But I won’t lie to you, I’ve been used as an opponent my whole career. And I fought a Cuban Olympian in my pro debut (Yasmany Consuegra, current 16-0 prospect). He’d had over three-hundred amateur fights. After that fight, I didn’t fight again for a year. But I hit him with a couple of shots and I thought I was going to stop him but I lifted my chin up and he caught me along the ropes. The referee told me to show him something and then the referee stopped the fight, prematurely I think. They don’t let guys fight these days. Until I’m down on the ground, I’ll fight to the death. They should [the referees] ask me, in a fight when they think I’m hurt, to count backwards from 5 to one, let me show I’m okay. In my loss to Gerald Washington (Harper’s only other stoppage loss) I was still on my feet and I was asking why they were stopping it.”

Q: Who would you say is the best guy you’ve been in with?

C.H: “I’d say Arreola. Experience-wise, he’s in the top-10 in the world on my chart. He’s the only fighter to have gone blow-for-blow with me, he didn’t run and we slugfested it out. Everyone else has boxed me and moved around and kept their distance.”

Q: And how much notice did you actually get for the Arreola fight?

C.H: “Let me see, we’re still in March, right? I had one good week of sparring, I sparred Domonic Jenkins. I was supposed to fight in New York in February but that fight was cancelled so I sat at home doing nothing. Then the Arreola fight was offered to me. At first I turned it down, but they said it would be on T.V. I signed the contract and I guess I had a week and a-half notice in all.”

Q: Finally, does it make you feel good to have pleased so many fight fans with your great action brawl?

C.H: “That makes me feel great. That’s what the fans want. And they pay to see us, no-one else. I think the fans should be the judges of a fight. They pay to see the fight so let them judge who the winner is. Let them judge how we fight.”

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