Audley or Fraudley? Harrison Gets One More Chance

audley harrison09.02.2007 - By Paul McCreath: There can be little doubt that over the past 20 years no other heavyweight in the world has received so much attention and yet delivered so little of his promise in the ring as has Audley Harrison.When Harrison won Olympic gold at superheavyweight in the 2000 games much was expected of him as a pro.British fans in particular were hoping that they had another Lennox Lewis who had won the same honors in 1988.

Audley's early career has been documented in detail many times before. Let's just say that in spite of a lucrative 10 fight TV deal with the BBC and promises of a British title within 5 fights, little was accomplished.His first 19 fights were all wins but were often uninspiring efforts against inferior opponents, many of whom were much smaller than Audley.

Finally, after about 4 and 1/2 years as a pro, he stepped up for the first time in December of 2005 and met Danny Williams in a 12 rounder for the Commonwealth title. The bout was a dreadful affair with Danny taking the split decision. The following April, Audley tried again, this time against another disappointing young fighter, Dominick Guinn, and again lost the decision in 10 rounds. It seemed that Harrison's hopes for future glory were finished.

But all was not lost. Last December, matched with Matt Skelton the Commonwealth champ, he found himself in the fortunate position of getting a rematch with Danny Williams who came in as a short notice substitute for the injured Skelton. Audley came through with a career best performance to stop Danny in 3 rounds. Suddenly, he was again in the headlines. The question arises of course, was this a new improved Audley we saw or an old, washed up, and ill trained Danny? The next real test would answer that question.

On Saturday February 17, we get to find out the truth. Harrison is matched this time with Michael Sprott, the current European Union champion. Sprott is practically unknown in North America but he is a well respected name around Europe. He is no world beater but he is a seasoned pro journeyman who can give a world of trouble to anyone outside the top 30 and Harrison is just around that level. Michael has met a virtual who's who of the heavyweight division in Europe. He won the British title from Williams by split decision in January 2004, then lost it to Skelton by 12 round KO three months later.

Sprott had earlier lost twice to Williams by controversial endings. He split two close fights with German vet Timo Hoffman back in 2001 and more recently gained decisions over two undefeated German prospects, Cengiz Koc, who was 21-0, in April of 2005 and Rene Dettweiler who was 18-0, in his most recent bout last November. He has gone 12 rounds with both Paolo Vidoz and Vlad Virchis and lasted into the 8th with Ruslan Chagaev who meets Valuev in a title fight soon. This is not an opponent Harrison can take lightly.

At 6 foot 5 and 1/2, Harrison will tower over the 6-foot Sprott but this is nothing new for Sprott. Virchis is just as big and maybe a better fighter and he barely scraped through with a disputed decision over Michael. Harrison probably hits harder than Sprott and technically may have the edge as well. Neither has a great chin but Audley again may be better here. Sprott, on the other hand, has far more experience. His record is 29-10 with 14 KOs. Harrison is 21-2 with 16 KOs. Oddly enough, Sprott while more experienced is actually three years younger at 32 compared to 35 for Audley.

The winner of this bout can look forward to a big payday against either Skelton or the winner of the Scott Gammer-Williams match. For Sprott, if he loses, it will make little difference to his career. If Audley loses, he will be exiled to the scrap heap by most fans. He really needs an impressive win in this fight. If he comes out aggressively and blows away Sprott quickly he may be seen again as a possible world title contender. If he labors to a dull decision, as he often does, he will be written off by many. This would seem to be the likely result but if you like to play the underdog Michael Sprott would be a fair gamble. He probably lacks the punch to stop Harrison but could pull an upset decision if Harrison sleep walks through too many rounds. Either way the British heavyweight situation will be clarified considerably and we may finally know the answer to that question, Audley or Fraudley?

Article posted on 09.02.2007

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