WINTER HARBOR – Deep in the attic of Warren Harden’s old family farmhouse is a trophy that has spent years collecting cobwebs and dust.
Harden’s father Robert’s decade-old trophy has long been a source of stories for the Winter Harbor family. With his father boasting a 3-0 record as a boxer from his prime, Warren and his brother Brant asked their father to tell them stories of his heroics in the ring.
“He loved sharing the stories with us; We sat for hours and listened, ”said Harden. “As a kid, I just wanted to be like my father all over the world. I always said to myself that one day I would step into the ring too. “
Now in college, Harden has finally made his own foray into boxing. The Husson University student and Sumner Memorial High School graduate is relatively new to boxing, but has already drawn the attention of others to his potential as a fighter following a recent win in the ring.
Harden recently took a win in his first fight as a boxer with a win at a Golden Gloves event in northern New England. The Winter Harbor native prevailed against Vermont’s Nanja Horing in a highly competitive match to begin a career he hopes will be no less successful than his father’s.
After years of listening to his father’s stories, Harden finally decided to take up the sport in January last year. That decision was made after he had watched the series “Rocky” again as a high school graduate.
Warren Harden shows off his championship belt from last month’s Northern New England Golden Gloves title fight. Harden, a Sumner graduate and sophomore at Husson University, trained for 18 months to win his July 17 victory over Vermont’s Nanja Horing. WARREN HARDEN PHOTO
“I’ve obviously wanted to do it for a while, and that definitely pumped me up and made me finally do it,” said Harden. “When I finished this series, I said to myself, ‘Okay, I really have to go into the ring now.'”
Harden joined Thunderpig Boxing at Brewer, where he trained for his first fight for a year and a half. Under coach Levi Sewall, he began training two hours a day four days a week to prepare for his fight, even though he knew that moment was imminent.
However, early in the summer, Sewall offered Harden the opportunity. A place on the undercard for New England Golden Gloves cleared, and Sewall, who thought Harden was “more than ready,” knew this was the right chance for his student to get into the ring.
There was one caveat, however, and it was a doozy: the fight in question would put Harden in the 178-pound weight class, well below his weight of 213 pounds at the time. Harden immediately began intensive dieting and conditioning to ensure he would be in the correct weight class on the day of the fight.
“As soon as I heard those words, I went straight to training,” said Harden. “I was on the keto diet and ran a lot. … When I went jogging, I woke up at 5 am, dug out a garbage bag, cut arm and head holes in it and pulled it under a T-shirt and a sweatshirt. “
On July 17th, Harden’s moment of truth came. After making the 225 mile journey and gaining weight, he was soon in the corner of the ring, 20 feet from Loring. With his family members and many of his closest friends in the audience, it was a nerve-wracking experience.
“When your whole family is around and you have people to cheer you on, you don’t want to disappoint them,” said Harden. “I always had this thought, ‘Oh man, if I go in there and get knocked out in front of all these people, it’ll be embarrassing.'”
Harden wouldn’t have to worry about such a nightmare scenario, however. He got into the fight with ease, maintaining his discipline, and harnessing a flurry of quick left-handers and strong right to win by decision in the 178-pound sub-novice championship bout.
Harden couldn’t tell in real time if he’d defeated Horing and was a bit surprised when the referee declared him the winner after three rounds. But when he saw Harden’s glove being pulled up after the fight, it was no surprise to Sewall, who knew his fighter had the upper hand.
“He listened to his coaches, knew the game plan and followed it from the first second to the end of the fight,” said Sewall. “I’m not saying it was a way out – the boy he was fighting was very tough – but for me it was one of the easier things for me to judge in my eyes.”
Harden, who also plays for the Husson men’s golf team, has family connections with the sports he plays. While Harden’s drive as a boxer stems from his relationship with his father, he attributes his success in golf to his grandfather Richard, an avid golfer who died before Harden’s birth.
“I’ve never had golf lessons and none of my family have played golf [him]”Said Harden. “Without really having a connection with my grandfather, the fact that golf was a way for me to share that connection with him that I never had was what really helped me to strive in golf.”
But while Harden’s connections to both sports are emotional, his presence at the ring is neither emotional nor vehement. Instead, he takes a calm, level-headed approach that has worked to his advantage in combat over the past month.
“He’s quite stoic to be honest,” said Sewall. “For many fighters, this emotion comes out in their first fight and they just hit, hit and fight in a very undisciplined way. Warren didn’t do that at all; He was very disciplined, which surprised me because almost all amateur fighters are not in this first fight. “
Just like his father, Harden now has a medal and a winning record. His next fight, which would be part of a USA vs. Canada series, was tentatively scheduled for October 9th.
If Harden wins this fight and at some point a third fight, he will have hit his father’s record. His trainer believes these goals – and many more – are within reach.
“He’s a kid who’s proving himself,” said Sewall. “You’ll see his name again, that’s for sure.”
Mike Mandell is the sports editor for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He started working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him by email at [email protected]