EDMONTON, Alberta (June 26) - Tonya Harding's new career as a boxer took a severe beating Friday, along with her face, as she was knocked out by Amy Johnson.
Boxing fans booed the self-styled spitfire of U.S. sports when she entered the ring and leapt to their feet cheering as she was pummeled by the 22-year-old Johnson
Harding, 33, of Portland, Ore., was hoping to use Friday's bout as a launching pad for a big money title fight after trading in her figure skates for boxing gloves two years ago. But that dream took a bruising in the third round when she was pushed up against the ropes by Johnson and punched repeatedly in the face.
The fight was stopped at 1:04 of the round.
"You name it, she threw it," a weary Harding said. "She threw a lot more than I anticipated and, you know, it was her night.
"She got the one opportunity to fight Tonya Harding and, of course, that gives you that extra energy and everything else. Let her have that 15 minutes of fame."
Harding, who made $25,000, said before the fight she hoped to exploit her bad-girl image in the ring.
"People made money off the bad-girl image and now it's my turn," said Harding. "I'm hoping that eventually I'll be able to pay my bills and that'll last for a couple months at a time and things like that."
Amid a crush of boxing fans eager for autographs, Johnson said she's happy she'll be remembered as the Edmonton woman who beat Tonya Harding.
"This is my first knockout," said Johnson. "I felt so much stronger than she was. I just felt like going in, like it's my town, my time to shine."
Harding hoped to win a date with Serbian-born Canadian boxer Jelana Mrdjenovich in a pay-per-view event that could have netted her as much as $600,000, said promoter Wayne Barry.
Despite a blackened left eye and swollen nose, Harding said she is not going to back down from that dream.
"It's been almost a complete year since I fought and I went out and I've shown that I do have some skills," said Harding. "I just need some more bouts to get under my belt."
A title belt could mean a clean break with the sport that made Harding famous.
She remains the only American woman to land a triple axel in competition, and she won a U.S. championship.
She fell from glory during the 1993-94 season. Her former husband hired a hit man to club rival skater Nancy Kerrigan on the knee with a baton at the U.S. championships.
Harding claims she didn't know of the attack before it occurred, but she pleaded guilty in 1998 to conspiracy to hinder prosecution. She was fined $160,000 and sentenced to 500 hours of community service.
She was later stripped of her 1994 national championship and banished for life by U.S. Figure Skating.
06-26-04 09:08 EDT
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I would like to have seen the a$$ whooping she got!