Baltimore middleweight Percy Harris, who made an improbable last-minute trip to Italy last December to defeat Terry Tate and capture the International Boxing Federation's Intercontinental title, will make an easier journey next month in pursuit of both the U.S. Boxing Association and North American Boxing Federation 160-pound championships.
Harris (15-2, 9 KOs) will make his ring debut in New York's Madison Square Garden on April 16, when he will challenge Lamar Parks, of Greenville, S.C., a Garden regular who is under contract to the facility's matchmaker.
"I think they've done a great job of protecting him," Harris said of the unbeaten Parks (19-0, 15 KOs). "Outside of Lenzie Morgan, I can't recognize any of these guys he's fought."
Parks, who turns 22 later this month, is ranked No. 4 in the IBF world rankings. Harris, 28, is ranked seventh.
The winner will be in excellent position to challenge champion James Toney, who won a controversial decision over David Tiberi in his last defense.
"I figure that I'm older and stronger than Parks," said Harris, who began boxing as an 8-year-old amateur at Mack Lewis' Eager Street gym. "There is a big difference in strength and experience. Parks is just coming into his manhood."
Harris, who has frequently changed managers since turning professional in 1989, is now being managed by Virginia corporate lawyer Frank Kane, who also represents light-heavyweight contender Anthony Hembrick and Washington Redskins wide receiver Stephen Hobbs.
"There is nothing but upside for this fight with Parks," said Kane. "First of all, there will be a lot of media attention in New York, the fight will probably be on national TV and Percy will receive great exposure. If he wins, he should instantly become a top title contender.
"I haven't seen Parks fight," Kane admitted, "but like Percy says, his record looks very suspect. I just don't see any downside to making the match."
Harris and Kane signed an agreement early this year after the fighter split with Joe Costello of Tyler, Texas. Costello had advised Harris against traveling to Italy to fight Tate. Harris made the trip without a manager or trainer and won a unanimous 12-round decision over the previously-unbeaten Tate. He has not fought since.
Parks has signed an exclusive contract with Garden matchmaker Bob Goodman. A regional Golden Gloves champion, he owned a 175-13 record as an amateur before turning pro in 1988.
In less than two years, he moved into the IBF's top 10 rankings.
"We feel Parks is a can't-miss talent," said Goodman. "It's been a long time since I've seen this combination of speed and power in such a young fighter."
Since beating Morgan to claim the Continental Americas title, Parks stopped Ken Hulsey in one round and registered a fifth-round knockout over Don Giron last December to win the NABF crown.
NOTES: The Maryland Athletic Commission fined Harris $2,000 for failing to fight Fabian Garcia at the Pikesville Armory, Dec. 4. That was the same weekend Harris traveled to Italy to fight Tate. He did not attend his hearing last week. . . . Baltimore junior middleweight Vincent Pettway, who outpointed Gilbert Baptist to win the USBA title last month, will probably have to wait until fall for a shot at the world title. Champion Gianfranco Rosi, of Italy, won't defend his crown against Gilbert Dele, of France, until June.