Tony Harrison knew there would exist the possibility that he would not be at his best heading into his first fight in more than a year.

It became a reality for the former WBC junior middleweight titlist who fought to a 12-round draw with Bryant Perrella in their Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Fox headliner this past Saturday in Los Angeles. Harrison won by a score of 116-112 on the card of judge Max DeLuca, while Dr. Lou Moret had it 117-111 in favor of Perrella, who was making his junior middleweight debut. Judge Zachary Young saw the action 114-114, resulting in a split decision draw.  

“"The judges do their job, I'm not disappointed in their decision,” Harrison said after the fight, his first since an 11th round knockout loss to Jermell Charlo in Dec. 2019. “I just have to ask myself what I needed to do more of and what I could have done better at.  I'll know more about how I did after I look at it again.

“I probably could have let my hands go a little more. I gave him a couple of momentum rounds where he felt like he was doing better than he really was.”

Detroit’s Harrison (28-3-1, 21KOs) sat out all of 2020, a year which saw the passing of his father and head trainer Ali Salaam due to COVID-19 along with the sport shut down for several months due to the pandemic. The training duties were handed over to Harrison’s older brother Lloyd, with the team receiving their marching orders earlier this year for a ring return versus Perrella (17-3-1, 14KOs).

Early momentum was with Perrella, who moved up from welterweight and seemed to be a natural fit in the 154-pound division. The 6’1” southpaw from Fort Myers, Florida landed 150-of-692 total punches according to Compubox, while Harrison was credited with landing 138-of-453 punches. The statistical gap was far wider in the first half, with Harrison improving his accuracy in the later rounds.

The difference between a draw and Harrison’s first win in more than two years, however, came down to his allowing Perrella to outwork him in the 12th and final round. Perrella swept the frame on all three scorecards, crucial on the card of judge Young who had Harrison ahead by one point prior to the final three minutes of action.

The stalemate leaves Harrison without a victory since his WBC junior middleweight title-winning effort over Charlo from their first fight in Dec. 2018. Still, there had to a come a starting point for his return with the hopes of greater ring activity in the months ahead.

"It was good to be back in there and having fun,” said Harrison. “[Perrella] was craftier than I thought he'd be. A lot of shots he threw didn't have much on them, and I probably got caught pulling back a couple times. 

“Overall after 16 months I thought I did okay. I was in there with a clear head and I was staying on my feet between rounds, so I know my body is still in great shape."

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox