17.06.04 – WBF Heavyweight Champion Audley Harrison (16-0, 11KOs) will face undefeated Tomasz Bonin (26-0, 16 KOs) from Poland on June 19 at the Alexandra Palace in Wood Green, London. The fight will air live on BBC1 at 10:50pm. The two were in attendance at the final press conference today held at the David Lloyd Centre in London. Harrison and Bonin know each other from various amateur tournaments and has kept track of each other’s professional progress to date.
Press in attendance asked both fighters what they thought about Saturday night and many media members were still interested in Harrison’s comments on the recently reported ending to his BBC contract as well as his personal campaign to secure a fight with British heavyweight Matt Skelton (while maintaining his independence) before being forced to go to America to pursue his heavyweight dreams.
Hazel Bruno-Gilbert (Business Manager, A-Force Promotions) – “This week has been a very important week for A-Force and Audley Harrison. As you know, it is the last show on the BBC and it is the end of three, back-to-back fights for Audley. Despite all that is going on, Audley has had a great training camp and definitely ready to rumble on Saturday night. We welcome Tomasz Bonin and his team.
“We urge everyone to get behind Audley Saturday night. Show him your true support and love, whether it’s at Alexandra Palace or on BBC1. This could be his last fight in the UK for awhile.”
Tomasz Bonin (26-0, 16 KOs) –“I am delighted to participate in the fight and I am looking forward to meeting and smashing Harrison! I have postponed fights back in Poland just for this fight and I have been training very hard and long and I am ready to go.
“I have come close to meeting Harrison before in the 1999 World Championship, where I was defeated by Samil Sam the round before he defeated Harrison. Finally, our long awaited match can happen.
“Harrison has a very good background and made great progress since the Olympics. He is very well coached with an excellent reputation worldwide. I will try to defeat him the same way that I have gone about all my fights in Poland against other undefeated fighters I have faced. I have the experience and have it to my advantage. I have a great amateur background and that will make it a great fight for all of us.
Audley Harrison (16-0, 11KOs) – “I am grateful to Tomasz Bonin and his team for being very professional throughout this promotion with everything that has been going on. I have known about Tomasz Bonin from the amateur ranks and despite the fact that a lot has been going on around me, I am 100% focused on this fight for Saturday night.
“Three fights in a row have been tough – tough for my boxing team under Thell Torrence, and tough for my business team under Hazel Bruno-Gilbert. But a big thanks to all of my team and staff for coping so well with the pressure.
“I deliver my promises and on Saturday night I am ready to deliver. My statement shows why I haven’t boxed some opponents and it shows why my career is where it is. But I am the best chance of representing Britain on the world stage and Britain should celebrate that and deal with the truth. Tomasz Bonin has come to fight and that brings the best out of Audley Harrison. By watching this live, it is the biggest protest to the BBC. I won’t rant and rave after the fight. My statement is fair and truthful.”
“Saturday is for the fans as a thank-you and it is to those fans that I appeal to support me wherever my career takes me.
“I was aware of the BBC decision but it will be the fans that will lose out. It seems a strange decision – just as you are about to get a return on something you let it go. Boxing deserves to be a mainstream sport on terrestrial television. But this is bigger than just Audley Harrison. Audley Harrison is the spearhead of the BBC campaign and therefore by letting Audley Harrison go, they have let boxing go. This is for boxing as a whole and for other BBC fighters such as Carl Froch and David Haye and for the promoters involved. Forget about Audley Harrison: I am happy to have been the start of the re-launch of big time boxing on the BBC, happy to be the sacrifice and happy to purge the system. I am not the villain here and I never bring the name of boxing down. Boxing needs terrestrial coverage so tune in and let that be my legacy left.
“If the deal with Mr Warren cannot be done, then there will be no option but to move abroad because my career is not all about the British scene. It’s about the world scene.
“I have no plans for America yet. I have options but they are on the side at the moment. I want to fight Matt Skelton; I want to win the British title. This fight is too unique to make me a mandatory challenger. Matt Skelton is a York Hall fighter, but Audley Harrison brings more to the table than that. I am not asking for a 70-30 share. I am asking for 50-50 which I think is fair and reasonable.
“A mandatory position does not allow this. To be honest, and with respect to the WBF, I would release the belt if it meant the fight could happen with Skelton. In fact, I would fight Skelton for no title at all – I don’t want any titles to be a stumbling block so let’s just do the fight. Mr Warren has to compromise. I want the British title, but I will sacrifice it just to fight Skelton. I want to clear the British scene and I want to go to the US as the best British prospect.
”Mr. Warren wanted to sign me before the Olympics. He said that I couldn’t win Olympic Gold. He said it hadn’t been done in 32 years. He thought I would come back cap in hand. But I didn’t. I will be heavyweight champion of the world regardless of the Skelton fight – this fight is for British boxing. I don’t hate Frank Warren – he is a business man as I am. But he has to get over the fact that A-Force is an entity and he has to compromise and get over it. Play the game for boxing Frank”.
”With a broadcaster, I can still bring big fights to the UK. Clifford Etienne could have been here but there was no money from the BBC. Frank Warren has the fighters here and all it requires is for him to be fair and reasonable. Skelton has done a good job to get there so let me and Skelton box.
”With regards to comments from Scott Harrison, I sympathise with all at Sports Network. They are the pawns in the Frank Warren game of chess. Scott Harrison is a good fighter, and as far as I’m concerned Britain is big enough for two Harrisons. I wish him well and hope he gets through. He has my respect for being a champion”.
AUDLEY HARRISON OFFICIAL STATEMENT
As most of you have heard by now, Saturday night will be my last fight on the BBC (10.50pm) and as far as I can see, the end of Big Time boxing on the channel for the foreseeable future. It is with mixed emotions that I reflect on this first part of my career, as it has given me great pleasure to have the opportunity to let you witness all of my fights whether live or on television.
Instead, boxing will be pushed to the later slots of scheduling and as I understand it, the BBC’s fantastic ‘Summer of Sport’ will not include any boxing other than the Olympics and one or two late night highlights of HBO broadcasts. The boxers that remain on the channel will have the next three months to wonder why their promoters can’t get them showcased. This story is far bigger than Audley Harrison. Boxing’s future on the BBC, I believe is at its end.
Before I start explaining everything that has happened over the past week, I first would like to take the time to thank you for your support to date and ask that you continue to follow my career—no matter what direction it takes—as this might be a bump in the road but it is far from a road wreck. There is still no doubt in my mind that I will become the legitimate Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Now, and with regard to my relationship with BBC Sport, I am quite disappointed that the decision has been reached to end this association at this time. It was understood by me and my company, A-Force Promotions, that there would come a time that the deal would be at an end. With the return of the premiership to the network, and in addition to the high financial price that comes with big time boxing, there was an understanding that the BBC would not be prepared to support my entire career but I was lead to believe that they would hang in their with me until March, 2005. That is why it was such a surprise that the termination happened so abruptly and at this time.
On the whole there have been some positive results from this association and one of them has to do with you—the fans. My association created a revival for British boxing as it returned to primetime terrestrial television ensuring that more fans of the sweet science would be able to see and enjoy it—at NO cost. In addition, I have had the chance to have all my 17 fights, including this one, financially funded while airing on terrestrial television. This has given me the jumpstart I needed to establish the early part of my career. Trust me, it has been a great start and I am still very posi
So stay tuned for next steps and what will happen in the coming months. First and foremost, I desire nothing less than to face Matt Skelton, 100%. But everyone, including Frank Warren, Skelton’s promoter, needs to know that I will only fight him if it’s a fair, no-strings attached agreement between all parties. I will not fight Skelton if I have to give up any options or my independence.
With regard to Frank Warren, I believe the man is obsessed with me. He walks, talks and sleeps Audley Harrison. This has been going on since 1998 when I turned down his offer of £100,000 to sign with him and he has pursued me relentlessly ever since. Before and after every fight I’ve had, he’s continued my campaign, jumping on the bandwagon, taking advantage of associating himself with my name. As far as the relationship between me and Warren, it’s like two men playing chess. I commend Frank becaus
Bottom line—Frank Warren has never given me the respect I deserve as a gold medal winner or as my own promoter. He feels and continues to demonstrate his belief that he will eventually control me and/or force me out of my own game. But I am an independent license promoter and will never receive a pay check from him or his company–EVER.
So for the greater good of boxing and all the fans who have asked to see this fight happen, I suggest that all parties work together and come to a realistic agreement. That is the only way this fight can happen and I trust that it will. I have already sent a letter to Sky Television ascertaining their willingness to make this deal (see below.) I am prepared to make this fight happen in two possible ways. Either, Sports Network can buy out the promotional rights for this one fight and pay me an agreed upon amount to be paid directly by Sky Sports. Or I
Allow me to box, win the title and move on in my career, away from the negativity, hijacking and destructiveness that is ruining Britain’s best chance of having a genuine and legitimate Heavyweight Champion. Matt Skelton is to be congratulated for his quick rise to the British title, but boxing requires more elements than toughness to be successful. Against me that will be his undoing. However none of this can happen if this fight is not made.
Trust me, I will find a way to overcome my predicament with the help of trusted and respected individuals, who wish for my success and nothing more. The learning curve at this stage of my career is now complete and I’m desperate to box Matt Skelton and a whole host of other fighters. You the fans deserve it and I will strive and make an almighty effort to make it happen, but I need you the fans to support my right to remain independent. Express yourselves and tell Frank Warren to stop obstructing the negotiations wi
If my charge to the top has taken longer than expected, I apologise, but please understand why. If my opponents are not the names you’ve been expecting, I apologise, but please understand why. If my fight this Saturday is the last time I’m able to box in Britain, again, I apologise, but please understand why.
So stay tuned and don’t give up on the A-Force. I appreciate your support to date and want you to know how much it has meant to me to have the millions of fans throughout the country support my fights either by watching them on the television or by coming to the arenas to see them live. I urge you to come to Alexandra Palace Saturday night or catch me on the BBC for the last time. Please understand that A-Force Promotions is here for the long run and are more than capable of looking after my career interests.
Love to fans of boxing who wish me well and understand the battle that’s been fought over the last three years, away form public opinion and behind close doors. The whole truth will one day be revealed and the fact that I’m able to still box, win and improve; despite the immense pressure on me and A-Force, will give you some indication of my mentality. I will not quit, no way, no how, but need to lick my wounds and come back stronger, smarter, fitter, focused and whatever else I need to do to achieve my goals and dreams.