The boxer who walked out of the ring before a punch was thrown last week in Minnesota might have pulled his stunt in California, if his effort to fight here moved more expeditiously.
Heavyweight Curtis Harper of Jacksonville, Fla., was proposed last week by Southland boxing matchmaker Alex Camponovo as an opponent for Russia’s Andrey Fedosov on a Friday card in Corona, but the licensing process through the California State Athletic Commission didn’t progress beyond an emailed request.
“I remembered he gave [former heavyweight title challenger Chris] Arreola a hard fight. I was thinking I was going to let him fight. But he didn’t submit enough to get licensed here, and the fight went away,” CSAC executive officer Andy Foster said. “To me, he was just a normal guy — until he walked out of the ring.”
Harper (13-6, nine knockouts) was cleared by Minnesota regulators for a bout in Minneapolis that night against Nigeria’s Efe Ajagba.
Harper became a viral sensation in a Premier Boxing Champions event televised by FS1 by touching gloves with the unbeaten Ajagba and moments later stepping through the ropes to exit the arena.
Nate Campbell, a former lightweight champion who was to serve as Harper’s trainer, sent The Times a photo of himself with a jaw-dropped expression as Harper left the ring, with his wife apparently recording the exit on her phone.
While Harper later told reporters he was unhappy with his purse for the fight, which promoters revealed as $6,000, Campbell said “there’s a lot of other stuff going on,” speculating an eye injury that Harper suffered in the March 2013 loss to Arreola in Ontario might have contributed to his withdrawal.
“I believe he knew he wasn’t going to fight when he left Jacksonville,” Campbell said.
Harper did not respond to an email from The Times requesting an interview.
Harper gave no indication to PBC promoters that he was upset with his purse in the days before the bout, emailing booking agent Marvin Romero on fight week that he “added an extra [plane] ticket [for his wife]. … I look forward to meeting you,” according to a PBC official who requested anonymity because they were unauthorized to discuss Harper’s situation publicly.
While Harper took a two-year break after fighting Arreola, he did fight twice after that, in Boca Raton, Fla., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., before getting cleared by Minnesota regulators.
Fight promoter Leon Margules said he’s been told by Minnesota officials that their internal probe could conclude by the end of this week.
Harper’s medicals “were presented to the [Minnesota] commission and they licensed him,” Margules said, adding clearance to fight from an eye exam was signed by a doctor in Jacksonville in late July.