There aren't too many professional sports in which an athlete would be excused for missing an official event because he couldn't get off from work.
Welcome to Tommy Rainone's life in boxing.
On Friday, Rainone, from Plainview, fights Dusty Harrison-Hernandez for the vacant WBC Continental Americas welterweight title at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. It is the first boxing card being promoted by Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports. So far, the event has been a whirlwind for Rainone.
The working-class boxer has seen his picture on a billboard across the street from the Garden and was introduced at last Sunday's Knicks game. But he wasn't able to attend Wednesday's media workout, a manufactured news event during which the fighters get to hype the card one last time. Rainone had to work.
For the last eight years, Rainone (22-5-1) has juggled his boxing career while working as the overnight supervisor and auditor at a local Hilton Hotel.
"It was a bit frustrating having to miss the open workout for the media but there was no way I could make a morning event in Manhattan," Rainone said. "Of course I wanted to be there. But I also have to show up for work."
Rainone, 35, had worked until 7 a.m. that morning and was due back at work at 11 p.m. Attending the media workout would have left very little time for sleep. Rainone said that his co-workers often fill in for him when he fights, but a recent lack of staffing at the hotel has tightened everyone's schedules. The only nights Rainone could get off this week were for Thursday's weigh-in and Friday's fight.
"It has thrown my entire routine for a loop, all while training for the biggest fight of my career," Rainone said. "I've had to train harder than ever and take care of work with little breathing room in between."
Rainone is used to disruptions. While some fighters are fortunate enough to receive training stipends and not have to worry about work, Rainone has not had that luxury. He has been self-managed for most of his career and has been able to land himself on some very big cards, including those at the Garden and Yankee Stadium. In November, he headlined the first boxing card at The Space in Westbury and won the NABO welterweight title with a 10-round decision over Carl McNickles.
"When you don't have a manager and work a full-time job, everything becomes a distraction," he said. "To be honest with you, leading up to a fight it becomes total chaos. Having to sell tickets and the phone never stops ringing. But I get used to it. I have been doing it like this my whole career and it's the only thing that I know and I am used to handling it that way. It's all mental and my mentality has always been to get the job done and not make up excuses as to why I can't or won't."
Rainone knows he's entering this fight as the underdog. Harrison-Hernandez, 21, is 24-0 and recently was signed by Roc Nation Sports.
"He's a slick, crafty guy," Harrison-Hernandez said at the media workout. "He's been around. He's seen a lot. I think it's the perfect fight I need to develop my career. [Rainone] is someone that is going to give me good rounds."
Rainone, a southpaw, expects to give Harrison-Hernandez more than that.
"I am expecting a tough fight," Rainone said. "The odds are stacked against me. But I am here to win. This is a huge fight for me. I am going to give him all he can handle."