Pro boxer's fight canceled, and as a result so is Tonya's debut

Tonya Harding's professional boxing debut has been sabotaged by one of the few athletes with an even more tarnished reputation.

Harding was to have fought Samantha Browning on the undercard of the Mike Tyson-Clifford Etienne headliner Saturday in Memphis, Tenn. But Tyson's erratic behavior caused promoter Brian Young to cancel the card.

'We go home disappointed, and go to Shreveport, La., on March 15 and kick butt,' says Jeff Hargis, Harding's trainer.

Hargis says Harding's opponent for next month has yet to be determined, but it could be Browning.

'Both fighters are hyped and ready for it,' he says.

Harding trained for two months in preparation for the scheduled fight with Browning, a native of Tupelo, Miss., who cleans houses for a living.

It figured to be an interesting clash.

Browning, 21, is a soft-spoken country girl hand-picked by Young to face Harding. The idea was to match fighters as evenly as possible, says Mississippian Tommy Locastro, a Browning friend and associate for years.

Last week, Locastro issued a two-paragraph release that quoted Browning as saying Harding 'couldn't whup me with a hubcap in her hand' and quoting Locastro as saying the fighter was 'ready to dislocate Tonya's jaw.'

The quotes caused a rift between Locastro and Browning. Locastro is no longer involved, says her husband, Nelson, a pro boxer who is one of her trainers.

'I understand he was just trying to sell tickets,' Samantha Browning told the Tribune. 'That is part of it. He didn't have to go that far, though.

'I have known Tommy for years. He's all right. I just wouldn't make any comments like that.'

Locastro sounds off

Earlier in the week, in a telephone interview with the Tribune, the loquacious Locastro Ñ a fight man for many years Ñ filled a laptop screen with lively remarks. Among them:

nÊ'I think Tonya is full of crud. She has been training in a carport or a hotel or something. This girl is not a real skilled fighter, and from what I have seen, she is not in shape Ñ she looks like one of those hubcaps she's been throwing. A lot of girls down here with some experience would love to fight her, and they would knock her butt out.'

nÊ'Samantha has a rowdy background. She was kind of a tough barroom girl when she met Nelson. They kind of toned it down after they got married. She got into a beef one night in the stands while watching him fight. I ain't never heard of anyone else getting throwed out of the New Daisy Theater in Memphis. I mean, the rats in there are bigger than the fighters.'

nÊ'I am hoping Tonya can take a punch. I noticed when she fought É what's her name? Jennifer Jones? Oh, Paula. I knew it was one of Bill Clinton's friends. É When Tonya got hit a good lick Ñ and Paula Jones couldn't crack an egg Ñ it was like, 'Whoa, this isn't in the script.'

'Well, there isn't going to be a script (against Browning). Samantha is going to come in throwing good clean punches. I know she's going to take a lick better than Tonya does. When I asked (Samantha) about getting hit, she said the worst black eye she ever got was from a guy.'

'Off the deep end'

Browning's debut will come at some point, but she won't be fighting Tonya Harding on Saturday night at the Pyramid, thanks to Tyson.

Tyson, 36, reportedly has been bothered by a bad back and flulike symptoms. And he also had a tattoo planted on the side of his face that might be causing him some problems.

The reality, according to trainer Freddie Roach, is that the enigmatic Tyson 'went off the deep end.'

One report said Tyson started going south when he stopped taking his psychotropic medicine, as he normally does in the days leading up to a fight. Last week, Tyson bolted camp, stopped training and went on what the report called 'a gluttonous rampage.'

Unconfirmed reports had Tyson gaining as many as 20 pounds during the week.

London's Daily Mirror reported that Tyson took part in an orgy at his Las Vegas home, replete with 'showgirls' and 'illegal substances.' As of Monday, Tyson's whereabouts were unknown.

Word was that Tyson was upset when he learned that he would net few proceeds from the Etienne fight. That's because every time he boxes he is not only paying off the Internal Revenue Service for past transgressions but also is paying back millions of dollars to the Showtime network Ñ which was to televise Saturday's bout.

Plenty is riding on a Tyson-Etienne fight Ñ at least for Tyson. If it isn't rescheduled, the former world heavyweight champ probably will not get a planned rematch with Lennox Lewis and a last potential megapayday and chance for redemption.

Contact Kerry Eggers at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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