Noel Harding’s dream of fighting for a big-name boxing company may be close to becoming a reality.
The 34-year-old owner of the Brandon Boxing Club is very close to signing with I.Rai Inc., and working with both the new Canadian company and Iron Mike Productions, a boxing company founded by Mike Tyson. Inderpal Rai, a manager and owner of I.Rai Inc., is waiting to see Harding in one more fight before he offers a contract.
"We have invited him out for another week to train in Catskill, (N.Y.), for his upcoming fight in September," Rai said. "Beyond that, we’re hoping to move him to Florida if everything goes according to plan and train in Deerfield Beach.
"His performance dictates what happens. It just has to be an exciting performance. A first-round knockout would be the cherry on top, but it’s got to be exciting and something people want to watch."
Rai wants entertaining fighters, and he believes Harding fits that bill. Harding’s 4-0 professional record and successive first-round knockouts are also impressive.
Rai and Harding have been in talks for more than a year, and the Brandonite has gone to Catskill to train for a previous fight, but this time it’s different. The company has found a place with other boxers for Harding to stay at, which is a positive sign for Harding’s chances of signing after he fights on Sept. 6 in Belcourt, N.D., since he was on his own the last time he trained out there.
While it’s not a contract offer, the 5-foot-7, 160-pounder is happy to hear the news.
"I’m anxious to get in with a very reputable company and big name; I think I should have by now," Harding said. "I was hoping that after my fourth fight that I was going to get signed, but I have another one in line and hopefully provide another entertaining fight. That’s all I can do is do my thing.
"If I come out with another win and he says he’s going to sign me, then that’s great. That’s more motivation for me to perform. It’s a big opportunity, and I’m hoping it finally prevails for me."
Harding isn’t sure when he’s going to New York to train yet. He wants to make sure he’s at the proper weight for his fight before training at the gymnasium, which has produced some of the world’s greatest boxers, like Tyson.
While he doesn’t know who he will fight yet in September and is feeling pressure with a potential contract hanging in the balance, Harding doesn’t think the anxiety will bother him.
"I’m good at putting things out of my head, but even that last fight was a high-pressure fight," Harding said. "I was fighting a guy with 15 fights and I was expected to win. I had to win. The pressure was all on me, there was none on him, and I rose to the occasion.
"I just hope that will happen in the next fight and it’s an entertaining show. I hope this guy lasts more than a minute because I’m getting kind of bored with these fights."
Rai hopes so too. He’s been impressed with Harding’s fighting style and how he’s marketed himself over the years and believes he has a bright future in boxing.
"If Noel presents himself and continues to present himself the way he has been, the sky’s the limit for the guy," Rai said. "I know he’s in his 30s, but that doesn’t matter. He has lots of experience and everything I’ve seen of him has been good and exciting. … The trainer (in Catskill) likes working with him. She sees mature signs in him and being able to handle the stress and pressures, and that’s huge.