Audley Harrison: Boasts he couldn’t make good on, why Audley became a TV Turn-off

08.08.06 - By Andy Olsen: I made no hiding of my being a Danny Williams fan in my previous article on him for ESB. I’ll be just as quick to declare any bias in this one about Audley Harrison, as I have no problem admitting to my dislike for the guy. Yet I, along with an entire nation, rooted for him in the Sydney Olympics in 2000. The celebrations at 5AM our time, as he became the first Britain to win an Olympic gold since Chris Finnegan back in ’68 lasted long into the… erm…morning. Nonetheless, we were thrilled..

audley harrisonSo how did the euphoria disintegrate into such distain for our once bright hope? My brief recap will perhaps explain it. We’ll start on his arrival from Sydney. The noises at first were good, with him announcing he would turn pro. The BBC saw him as their return to boxing (in Britain Sky showed all the big fights, with our free to view channels taking any leftovers). He then made a boast that he couldn’t make good on. And that my friends, is something that has been synonymous with his career ever since.

Harrison claimed he would win the British title within 5 fights. Now that is a big deal. Then British champ Danny Williams’ promoter Frank Warren obviously wanted to see if he could do it. He offered Harrison a fee in the region of £500,000 to fight for the title in his first pro outing. The offer was rejected out of hand. Speaking of promoting, he pretty much handles his own affairs. Those who would have known what they were doing would have told him not to come out with such outlandish boasts.

His debut instead came against somebody called Mike Middleton, which predictably ended in a one round blow-out. 5 fights later, and the competition had not risen to any real degree, and nowhere near British title level. His second fight, against honest journeyman Derek McCafferty, was a terrible affair. He seemed out of breath after a couple of rounds, McCafferty was applauded for his efforts, whilst Harrison endured the displeasure of the crowd. This is our heavyweight hope? The BBC shelved his prime-time slot a couple of farces like this afterwards.

We can fast forward here, as hardly anything happened in the years 2002-2005. Sorry, I forgot, he won a world title. In March 2004 he was declared “The winner and new WBF Heavyweight champion of the world”. He had really lost it here. His remarks afterwards “I’m in the (equivalent of the boxing) premiership” provides us with evidence of such delusion. He is telling us that this title win actually means something. Boxing loses its credibility when people claim fringe titles mean anything, other then a sanctioning fee and a couple more spectators coming to watch their next outing. Thankfully, no-one was listening.

A few more wins in America, over modest opposition, kept the undefeated steak going. I cannot comment on the manor of these victories, our TV had almost totally shunned him. But then came put up or shut up time. 4 years after he first bragged about beating him, he faced Danny Williams for the Commonwealth title. Finally, an opponent of a decent standard for him to fight, someone who will not be there just to survive, take the paycheque and leave. Promoters of a decent standard may have put him in with some big guys, in preparation for this test. But Audley knew best, fighting an array of British and American journeymen, in the belief this would get him ready for Danny. Did the contest live up to expectations? If you had tuned in expecting to witness probably the worst heavyweight fight for a title of any description, then absolutely, it did.

Williams won, I think on the grounds that he threw one meaningful punch to Audleys’ zero. I have scored 10-10 rounds before, but never on the basis that neither fighter did anything in the round. Both fighters were slated for their performance. The criticism in most part was aimed at Audley. This fight only told us the monikers “A-Farce” and “Fraudley” were fairly accurate. Once again, he had failed to live up to the expectations he gave us. The fact that he showed a lack of the most basic commodity a fighter needs (heart) gave his critics further ammo. He looked petrified in there at times, and showed a distinct unwillingness to fight.

But the more revealing comments came afterwards. He pointed out, correctly, that it took Frank Bruno four attempts to win the world title. There I realised one thing. He simply didn’t get it. Bruno was brave in all his attempts, and we British love nothing more then a guy who gives his all in any sporting contest or environment. Bruno was loved for his determination and likeable persona more then his ability. Frank was taken to our hearts, in a fashion that Harrison never will be. Bruno also refrained from telling us of his talent, before he had actually achieved anything in the pro-ranks.

In March, Harrison had the chance to regain some face. He fought peripheral heavyweight Dominic Guinn. He fought in two rounds out of ten, and Guinn got the deserved nod from the judges. The commentators stated this was the end of Harrison. Most people had reached this conclusion after the fight with Danny. But not so, according to his new trainer, Buddy McGirt

McGirt told boxing monthly that “the sky is the limit” for his new charge. He is impressed with his ability and work-rate. He was at a career light 248 for his last fight, and the work rate he showed against modest opposition (Andrew Greeley had an 11-12-2 record going into the contest) impressed him, or so he claims.

But I think he is missing the point. Improvements, made by working with McGirt, in reaction and power can be measured by those new gadgets you attach to the focus pads. The use of a stopwatch will tell us of improvements in speed, and, in the case of a long distance run, stamina. The one thing we cannot measure is courage. The will to win, the ability to overcoming injury and self-doubt, and the withstanding the pain of lethal punches from the opponent all require this commodity.

I feel this is where the problem lies, and I believe such courage is something we either have or we don’t. Those who have it go onto greater things. Those who don’t have it get talked about in the same fashion that Audley has, by many a fight fan in recent months. And let us not forget, in late 2000 those same fans were probably rooting for him in the early hours, hoping he’d win that Olympic gold. I strongly doubt that support will ever be recaptured.

Article posted on 08.08.2006

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