Thoughts From The Brain: Audley Harrison, another shot at redemption?

Posted: January 24, 2012 in Thoughts From The Brain

Once again I am very happy to be able to share with you a blog that Martin Potter from the Boxing Clever podcast has written exclusively for Write Cross. Martin will be writing regularly for WC in his ‘Thoughts From The Brain’ section and it is a real pleasure to have him on board. GO

By Martin ‘The Brain’ Potter of the Boxing Clever Podcast

It is said that the definition of madness is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If this is indeed the case then many would argue that Audley Harrison should grab a straitjacket and find the nearest padded cell, because once again he is aiming for boxing glory and asking the British public to join him for the ride. But is Audley deluded or can he really be relevant once again in a vibrant British heavyweight scene? Here I take a look at the journey that saw Audley go from celebrated Olympian to the much maligned ‘Fraudley’ and turned ‘A-Force’ into ‘A-Farce’.

The Acclaim

Harrison is a complex, intelligent character with legitimate boxing ability and not just the unrealistic dreamer that lots of fans and journalists, (myself included) have painted him to be. The achievement of winning an Olympic gold medal should never be underestimated and in many ways could be considered greater than winning a professional boxing world title. The Olympics happen every four years and can only have one champion. In professional boxing’s alphabet soup there are a minimum of four world titles per division (in the current heavyweight division there is a WBA ‘super’ champion and a WBA ‘regular’ champion as well as the WBC, IBF and WBO), with challengers given a shot every few months.

There are myriad reasons, in my view, as to why Harrison couldn’t convert the skill and dedication that drove him to Olympic success into a world belt in the pro ranks (sorry Audley, the WBF belt doesn’t count). Firstly is the basic fact that amateur boxing is a very different sport to that of its professional counterpart. Fencing-like jabs and cautious tactical games disappear with the head-guard and vest, replaced with body shots, haymakers, aggression and in many cases less skilled, but fiercely proud men who are willing to walk through shots that amateur fighters would not have to take. None the less, Audley took Olympic gold in the marquee super heavyweight division and turned professional in a blaze of glory. He told us that he would be world champion; we all believed him. He went 19-0 as a professional. What could go wrong?

The Ridicule

Britain as a nation loves to build towering heroes and then reduce them to rubble – a fate that lay in store for Harrison. Unfortunately he didn’t know it as he surfed a wave of public adulation and media acclaim, topped by securing an unprecedented ten fight, million pound BBC television deal to turn professional. Although this deal made Audley Harrison financially, it is my view that it was the start of his problems as a fighter and – on a much wider scale – effectively ended the involvement of the BBC in professional boxing. Audley, promoting himself, was able to pick his own opponents and because of the sum of money he had received, alongside the promises he made, the public wanted excitement, knockouts and titles, and wanted them fast. Harrison didn’t deliver.

Although Audley was on a winning run, the sharks in boxing and the media (and that is a lot of sharks!) started to circle, questioning the quality of opposition as well as Audley’s cautious style of fighting. As the criticism increased and Audley’s performances declined, the bolder Audley’s predictions got – this just intensified the criticism…

Then, in his 20th professional contest, the inevitable defeat happened in a truly awful bout as Audley stepped in against British rival and first real opponent of note, Danny Williams. Audley had stated that if he couldn’t beat Danny Williams then he had no business in boxing.  However, Harrison didn’t quit the game following his loss, he merely escaped the scorn poured on his efforts by relocating to America. Audley lost again and then beat a journeyman before returning to Britain for his first shot at redemption.

Redemption and further ridicule. Again. And again. And again.

In December 2006, a year removed from his first professional loss, Audley Harrison – still a figure of fun amongst British media and fight fans – finally showed the resolve and ability that won him Olympic gold by knocking out Danny Williams in the rematch. He was back. Maybe he could be a world champion. Maybe we were all wrong… Or maybe domestic stalwart Michael Sprott (29-10 at the time) would render him unconscious within three rounds!

Two low-key come back wins, followed by a defeat to tough but limited Irish slugger Martin Rogan, seemed to put a lid on Audley’s career. Yet, showing remarkable resilience and strength of character (or perhaps the previously mentioned madness), Harrison put it all on the line again in the Prizefighter tournament. He won three fights in one night to take the trophy. He was back again! And so were the proclamations of world supremacy. An unconvincing revenge win for the European belt against Michael Sprott followed, but despite criticising Audley’s performance – hey, the man makes himself easy to criticise – I have to acknowledge that he showed heart to get a last round knockout whilst injured.

The scene was now set for Audley Harrison’s night of destiny against former friend David Haye, and the master of delusion (that’s Harrison, not Haye by the way!) seemed to convince many experts who should know better that he could actually win the fight. Personally I wasn’t fooled (OK, so I put £1 on Audley by ko to cover the £40 I put on Haye to win in three…)

We all now know that the Haye – Harrison fight was an abomination and as he was booed from the ring, surely this time Audley was done. Or was he? Apparently not it seems, because Harrison is coming back again and this time it’s for real. Is it another exercise in self-delusion, or, to return to my original question, can he be ‘A-Force’ on the British scene?

Audley’s fight against Ali Adams should be a comfortable victory (Ali’s last five opponents have a 25-63-11 combined record) for perennial world champion in waiting Harrison. But what then? I honestly think that Audley Harrison could get a fight with Tyson Fury that would be a huge event on Channel 5 and a winnable bout for an in shape Audley. On the other hand, maybe Harrison – having sunk boxing on the BBC and brought down pay-per view on Sky – could complete the treble and bring Channel 5 to its knees… Maybe then the mad, bad legacy of Audley Harrison will be complete! Come on Audley!

To hear more boxing opinion and poor attempts at humour from ‘The Brain’ listen to the 5 star rated Boxing Clever Podcast, available on iTunes or at http://www.boxingclever.libsyn.com/. You can also follow me on Twitter @theboxingbrain and @boxingcleverpod or you can email me at boxingcleverpodcast@gmail.com.

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