Scott Harrison: The questions, the answers, the fight and the future

05.12.03 - Gavin Macleod: Standing in the ring looking down at his opponent, who was now on bended knee, Scott Harrison felt as though his world had just collapsed. The man he was standing looking at was Manuel Medina, a tough and rugged Mexican who had just relieved Harrison of his much-loved WBO featherweight strap via a split decision. It was only split in the judge’s view however, as most at ringside felt that Medina had won convincingly.

The large crowd in attendance at the Braehead Arena that night had a shocked and stunned look on their faces as they headed for the exit doors, not because they disagreed with the decision, but because they couldn’t believe they had seen a performance from Harrison that was so far removed from the action packed and pressuring style he used to pound Julio Pablo Chacon and, in particular, Wayne McCullough in his two previous fights.

All sorts of questions were asked of Harrison, Was he over-hyped after his performance against McCullough? , Why could he not change tactics in the fight to stop Medina running away with it? , Did he just get exposed at the top level? , Did he struggle with the weight and was that why his punches had no snap or sharpness all night? People just hurled the queries around trying to find a simple answer to what went wrong for Scott that night.

When the truth was revealed it resulted in a mixed reaction from those in the boxing circle. Harrison, never one to make excuses, simply informed everyone that he had been suffering from a viral infection and had vomited only ten minutes prior to entering the ring for his showdown with Medina. While some accepted this as a valid reason for his lacklustre showing, many just brushed it off as another excuse from a boxer who couldn’t accept that he had been beaten fair and square by a better fighter.

Harrison is a very proud man, he is proud of his Scottish heritage and he is extremely proud of his reputation. He has been described as a throw back fighter, in the way that he is reminiscent of the olden day fighters who just said little and got on with the job. When Harrison learned of people’s doubting his explanation he simply reasoned that he would let his fists do the talking when the rematch came around on the 29th of November.

Harrison had described the feeling of losing the World title as a “terrible feeling” and to get it back he was going to make sure he was in the best shape possible to prove his doubters wrong.

Ten weeks before the second showdown with Medina, Harrison locked himself away for four weeks in the small highland town of Fort William, just on the North West coast of Scotland. Here he would be away from all the hustle and bustle of his usual surroundings of Cambuslang and Glasgow, whilst being in a more focused environment than the training camps he would usually head for in Portugal.

He did training the old fashioned way, the way his predecessors, like Hall of Fame members and fellow countrymen Benny Lynch and Ken Buchanan had trained, by running the mountains. Under the watchful eye of former British Army Paratrooper Owen Lennon, Harrison would embark upon running up Scotland’s tallest peak, Ben Nevis, with a 50lb rucksack on his back, to give himself that extra conditioning he desired for his biggest challenge to date.

Being extremely big at the weight, eyebrows have been raised about how Scott Harrison makes the nine stone weight limit and some people have suggested that the effort it takes to boil his frame onto the scales may be detrimental to his performance. However, true or not, weight making was not going to be a problem as Harrison recruited the skills of Neil McLaren, Doctor of Sport and Biomedicine at The University of Glasgow, to help with his dietary guidance.

As the fight edged ever closer, the first obstacle of weight making came and went without a glitch as Harrison scaled in at a trim and healthy looking 8st 13lbs 14oz. It was evident even at the weigh-in that Harrison was feeling far more confident than he had just over four months before. His teak tough demeanour was still present, but his eyes had the confident glow of a man ready to take back what he felt was rightfully his.

So came judgement day. Was the illness fact or fiction? Only time would tell. Everything seemed the same as last time. Again we were in the Braehead Arena, Scott Harrison and Manuel Medina were present, as was a very vocal pro Harrison crowd of around about 6000 who cheered there man into the ring, before turning hostile for the ring walk of the champion from Tijuana. Was there to be a repeat or a reprisal?

Harrison focused his sights on Medina, and edged forward oozing the vibe of a man who could not wait to re-engage his old foe. Referee Manuel Maritxalar had to push back the former champion more than once to stop him getting to Medina before the bell had even tolled. Then it came, the sound that must have seemed like an orchestra to Harrison, the bell for round one to commence.

Medina came out in the first round showing his intent to continue with his in and out style of fighting that had served him so well in the first meeting of the two. Harrison was looking to work his jab, something that was fairly non-existent in their first encounter, and he continually pumped it out as a deterrent to Medina. He was landing some and missing some but that seemed to be the plan of attack with the jab, keep pushing it out to upset Medina’s rhythm. Harrison then came in behind it with a right hand that drew roars of approval from the spectators at ringside and Medina then found himself taking another good right hand, followed by a left hook along the ropes. The rematch was only a minute old and already it seemed as though the first fight may have just been an off night for Harrison, and gave credence to his reasoning for it.

The strength advantage that Harrison holds over just about every other featherweight was lacking in their first encounter, but in this fight it appeared to have returned, illustrated in a clinch between the two combatants. The ripped and muscular Harrison just wheeled Medina around so his back was in a corner and threw him off as though he were a child.

Medina was trying to look busy but Harrison was landing the heavier and cleaner blows of the two men and it was Medina who found himself trying to workout what to do as Harrison timed his shots well and looked to punish Medina for even daring to step into his punching range. He did this very effectively with thirty-eight seconds remaining in round one. Medina was on the retreat and let his hands down for a moment and Harrison uncoiled a ferocious right hand that clattered against the side of Medina’s bony features. His knee’s buckled and he was falling backwards only to use his right hand to grab a rope and hold himself up. Harrison like a shark smelling blood moved in for the kill and let the leather fly. A solid right and left boomed off Medina’s head as he was trapped in a corner. As Medina tried to escape the corner and Harrison’s pressure, yet another left hand bounced off him and sent him back to the ropes. He then stumbled forward into Harrison, who mercilessly clubbed his man until he hit the canvas.

Medina got up straight away, with his nose now bleeding, and took his eight count, but he was on wobbly legs and also complained to the referee that he was pulled over. When waved to box on Harrison came tearing in again and pulled Medina out of his crouch like stance with a thudding right hand, and as the bell sounded Harrison got through with a good body shot and then a follow up left that sent a rubber legged Medina hurtling towards referee Maritxalar. Medina crashed off the referee’s chest and went down with a bang. When he regained his feet he was helped back to his corner but still looked very groggy from the beating he had just received in the opening three minutes. Indeed it was so savage that this writer is convinced that had the round been fifteen seconds longer then it would have been all over for Medina.

The second round opened with Harrison looking to continue the relentless aggression he had showed in the first. He pounded Medina towards the ropes where he was looking to break his man up, but Medina was still his slippery self and continued to escape, only to have Harrison cut off the corners and trap him again. When he got his man pinned down Harrison would unleash roundhouse lefts and rights that were sapping Medina’s resilience even if they were not landing cleanly. Medina was throwing back but Harrison covered well. He was prepared to walk through some of Medina’s shots as they did not have much venom in them and seemed nothing more than taps with bad intent, and landed a series of punches including a straight right and a well executed left hook.

Medina was still trying everything he could think to get his own game plan going but found himself hitting gloves and out of a clinch he had to soak up another right hand that rocked him. A follow up right had Medina really feeling the effects and as he slipped a punch he fell to the canvas, however the referee ruled this as a slip.

The third did not have as much action to report on as the opening two rounds but was still entertaining none the less. Medina came out and missed a wild lunging punch, and was then forced to eat yet another solid right and left combination on the ropes before taking a further right hand in his own corner. Medina then started trying to bang Harrison’s body, but with the punches landing with the ferocity of a feather, he was having no success as Harrison continued to land the cleaner and harder shots. Medina’s shots were giving out a visual effect only as a combination that he landed at the end failed to even register of Harrison’s face, showing there lack of substance.

The fourth canto began with Medina looking to get something working. Try as he might though, when he opened up he was still getting caught and discouraged by the harder shots that Harrison was firing back. This happened at the start of, the round and coupled with Harrison’s jab, which was still working well, had Medina back tracking away from the stronger man from Cambuslang. Medina tried to attack Harrison’s body again but once again found himself falling to the canvas but this time there were no punches in the build-up to his downfall. Again the referee had to rule a slip and the action continued. With both fighters down low looking for body shots and carrying forward momentum there was a clash of heads which saw the top part of Medina’s skull crash into the left side of Harrison’s face. Seconds later Medina landed a good left jab and a straight right hand that drew blood from a cut over Harrison’s left eye. Many feel that it was the right hand that caused the cut; although on further inspection I am lead to believe that it was the head clash before the right hand that opened the wound.

Moments later Medina found himself on the ropes again and had his head snapped back by a very useful roundhouse right and left hook. In retaliation to this Medina came forward an banged his head into Harrison’s bleeding features which saw the Scot bring his hands up in a sign of the distress caused by Medina’s use of the head. Before the round was out though the challenger, clearly showing that two could play Medina’s game, banged his own head into the Mexican’s face, a tactic that Medina did not like. When the bell sounded to close the round, Harrison’s father/trainer Peter could be heard complaining to the referee saying “watch his head, that’s twice he’s done it!” in reference to what he believed to be intentional butting from Medina.

Round five opened with Medina upping the work rate as he darted in unleashing low power, high volume combinations. His hand speed has always been underrated and it was giving Harrison a bit of trouble in this round but Harrison was still managing to land the more solid blows, although not as frequently as in the previous rounds. More alarming and problematic to Harrison was Medina’s constant slumping to the canvas. It wasn’t so much slipping; more that his legs looked to lose their strength momentarily and could not support him. All in Medina was on the canvas three times in round five and each time he motioned to Mr Maritxalar that Harrison had pulled him down. Indeed he seemed to have found an ally with the referee who warned Harrison about it on a few occasions, which drew looks of disgust from Harrison’s promoter Frank Warren, who was sitting at ringside. That said it was Medina’s best round of the fight as he landed with more regularity and just edged it over Harrison’s more solid work downstairs.

As the sixth commenced Harrison looked to get back to working his jab to try and quell Medina’s in and out style raiding. The Mexican countered this by standing on the outside with his left arm outstretched and looking to confuse Harrison by moving it around in the same fashion that a ten year old would wave a sparkler on bonfire night. When Medina did venture into the trench, Harrison caught him with a hard right hook then a left hook to the body that made the five times featherweight titilist take note. Medina, never one to stay in the same spot, was moving side to side and trying to catch Scott with the same in and out combinations that had brought him success in the preceding round. Medina was being forced to take powerful shots from both fists of Harrison each time he tried this tactic. A straight right from Harrison had Medina holding on, only for him to be shrugged of by the hungry hometown man. Medina landed his best punch of the fight in the shape of a left uppercut that knocked back the head of his advancing opponent but Harrison unfazed by it marched in behind the piston left jab and clubbed Medina who staggered to the ropes under the barrage of Harrison’s punches. Whilst on the ropes, Medina swallowed a left hook that again had him looking to tie up his opponent. Both men had their successes before the rounds conclusion but as had been the story of the fight so far, Medina’s blows lacked the power and authority of Harrison’s.

Stanza seven opens with another head clash between the two and again Medina remonstrates to the referee. Medina is still landing but still has done nothing about increasing the power level in his attacks. Harrison, who is now bleeding from two new cuts, one under his left eye and one at the start of his hairline, connects with a big left hook that shakes Medina and then when in close Harrison outworks Medina to the body. The left hook was proving particularly effective for Harrison as he used it to punish Medina on his exit from another unsuccessful raid attempt. He then begins to find some range and starts to make Harrison miss, only to get caught by a shot, which makes him re-evaluate his approach. Whilst on the inside, Medina earns himself a warning for punching with the backhand side of the glove. In this round Medina gave the impression that he was doing a lot of work but the quality was again poor, and in reality he was on the receiving end of the better quality of blows.

Round eight began in the same fashion as the seventh, as the heads came together again in another sickening collision. Medina got off first with two useful looking right uppercuts to the body, but Harrison was again able to ignore them thanks in large part to his magnificent conditioning. Medina just kept the arms pumping in this round, in much the same way he did against Johnny Tapia, a fight in which many felt he deserved the decision. Harrison was not firing back as often in the eighth and took three good shots and was then made to miss his attempted counter as Medina skipped back out of the firing line. Medina was switch-hitting with greater efficiency now and he was getting through with both right and left jabs, as Harrison appeared to have switched off. When a timeout was called for Medina’s gum shield to be replaced it was a perfect opportunity for Harrison to regroup and get his composure back on track. It was opportunity missed however; as the heads came together again and Harrison was warned for hitting on the break without getting the chance to establish his harder blows again.

The constant use of the head from Medina was effective in not only marking the challengers face but also in riling him sufficiently to make him lose focus on his objective. A further head collision had an incensed Frank Warren up out of his seat and protesting to the referee and he was not the only one who had finally seen enough of it. As the bell sounded to end the round Medina and Harrison glared daggers at each other and Medina pointed towards Harrison, which resulted in Harrison trying to cross the ring to get the action started again without the one minute interval. The only thing preventing Harrison from achieving this was the referee who physically had to restrain the irate former champion.

At this stage you may be wondering how, with the constant abuse of the head from Medina and the cuts on Harrison’s face, was the fight able to continue. The answer is simple. With his usual cutman, Dennie Mancini, suffering from illness and in hospital, Harrison recruited the highly respected Mick Williamson to work the cuts for him. Williamson, in this writer’s humble opinion, is the finest cutsman in the business. After controlling Ricky Hatton’s terrible gash for eleven rounds against Vince Philips, he further enhanced his reputation with a sterling effort to control the cuts suffered by Harrison.

Both men started out fast in the ninth round with Medina again targeting the body and Harrison showing no respect for Medina’s pressure, as he jammed two right hands into Medina’s face. Once again Medina complained after the heads collided and once again Frank Warren got out of his seat, understandably seething at the referee’s decision to warn Harrison for use of the head. Medina was bouncing around on his toes like a child on glucose tablets waiting to open his Christmas presents. Harrison was now throwing single but effective shots to the body and when he resorted to his jab Medina was ducking and throwing very little back. As was now becoming common place, the two fighters looked to open up and Medina ducked in low with his head and smashed it into Harrison’s face and Warren, who must have felt like he was playing musical chairs, got up again. This time, tapping his head to indicate to the referee that he felt Medina was intentionally using his head. Harrison had the final say in the round, as in the closing moments he caught Medina with a sturdy right hand that made the Mexican veteran hold.

When round ten commenced Medina came straight in towards Harrison looking for the body, but this time Harrison just pushed him straight back and as a result Medina found himself on the seat of his pants. When he regained his feet Harrison had Medina holding once more after being shaken by a right hand to the head. Frequently now, Medina was coming in with his head down looking to bore into Harrison’s body with both hands, and just as frequently in this round, Harrison seemed happy to let him do it. After a blistering start and a well fought second half of the fight Harrison suddenly exploded back into life at the one minute twenty-two second mark of this round. Having absorbed a good few rights and lefts in this round, Medina found himself getting caught with a huge right hand from Harrison that turned his legs to jelly and forced him to take a knee.

Medina looked over to his corner for some form of guidance and then raised himself at the count of eight. When he surfaced he was met by a now seemingly revitalised Harrison, who waded in and let both cannons blast away. Medina was now getting caught with relative ease and again it was the right hand that sent him down on all fours, with only forty-eight seconds remaining in the round. Up again at eight, Medina found himself pressed onto the ropes by Harrison, who was catching his man with more headshots. Medina summoned up all his experience though and was firing back just enough to prevent the referee’s intervention. Indeed if Harrison had shown more composure then he would have had a better chance of getting the third knockdown that would have ended the fight.

The end seemed near for Medina as he rose for the eleventh round, and as the crowd roared for Harrison to finish the job; you could not help but admire the battling instincts and sheer courage of a champion who was now on the brink of being ousted from his throne.

In what was surely his last stand, Medina tried to get back up on his toes but the cumulative effect of Harrison’s blows had taken the sharpness out of his legs and the snap out of his punches. On the twenty-three second mark he leant in with his hands down and forced out a weary jab, Harrison now seeing that it was there for the taking sent over a booming right hand that caught Medina high up on the head and once more sent him to his hands and knees on the canvas. The referee started his count, but Medina’s cornerman appeared on the ring apron waving the towel to signal his desire for the fight to be stopped to prevent his man enduring any further punishment and, mercifully, Maritxalar waved the fight off.

Scott Harrison embraced his father Peter, a sense of triumph and delight etched across their respective faces as they acknowledged what each had done to get back to this standing in world boxing. They also both knew that Scott had become the first Scottish fighter to ever win back a version of the world title and the pride that Harrison felt about that would be revealed later on.

People asked if Scott Harrison, like his nickname suggested, was in fact “The Real McCoy” after his first showing against Medina, and many felt that there was nothing he could do differently in a rematch. He was branded one-dimensional, too robotic, predictable etc and the majority of people were certainly not buying into the notion that he was ill before losing his title first time out. Harrison responded by informing us that he would make sure the REAL Scott Harrison showed up, without illness and with a better frame of mind, and whether we believed him or not was neither here nor there.

So true to his word, on the 29th of November Scott Harrison let his fans see what they had come for four months earlier. He was back to his destructive best and this time he was ready to do a proper job on Medina, and that he did. The question we are now left with is where now for Harrison?

Well With Manny Pacquiao disposing of world rated number one Marco Antonio Barrera, via an eleventh round TKO, does Harrison target the new featherweight boss from the Philippines? The answer it would seem is no. Rumour is that Pacquiao is looking to step back down to the super-bantamweight division to defend his IBF strap one more time before gaining those extra four pounds and mixing it with the featherweights again. Barrera himself may be an option as he has a great relationship with the WBO but his plans have yet to be announced. So who is left?

Does Harrison go for the newly crowned WBA/IBF featherweight kingpin in the form of big punching Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico? That again seems as though it will have to wait as the fight would be hard to make with Marquez more than likely passing on the option to travel to Scotland, and Harrison still needing to improve his profile stateside for the TV bosses to stump up the money required to make the fight happen. Not that Harrison would refuse the fight, as he seems like one of the few fighters today who want to fight the best. The same would apply to a fight with the man that Marquez beat for the WBA crown, Derrick ‘Smoke’ Gainer, who is himself still looking for a route back into title contention.

So for now it would seem that Harrison may have to make do with defending his WBO crown while he waits for a fight against one of the big guns to materialise.

In a recent interview with Scottish news broadcast ‘Scotland Today’ Harrison outlined that he will be going on a two week holiday with his partner and their child, but will be looking to get back into the ring in March of 2004. He also described the win over Medina as “a sweet victory” and extended his thanks to the fans that turned out to cheer him on, as the atmosphere they generated helped spur him onto victory.

Before the fight, the WBO had stated that the winner would have to face mandatory challenger William Abelyan within ninety days of the fight, so for Harrison’s immediate future it looks like being a fight against Abelyan in Glasgow sometime in March of next year.

For his long-term future you can only be sure of one thing. Barring illness or mishap, Scott Harrison will be a destructive force that everyone in the featherweight division will have to look out for and no-one who steps inside the ropes with him will have an easy night ahead, as the Scot looks to establish himself as the undoubted King of the 126lb division and bring back the glory days of Scottish boxing.

Eastside Boxing would like to wish Dennie Mancini a full and speedy recovery.

Gavin Macleod

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Article posted on 05.12.2003

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