By Jeff Day: This Friday night will see the return of Scotland’s “Real McCoy” – Scott Harrison to the ring for the first time since November 2005 at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall.
Harrison’s outside the ring problems have been well documented and it is difficult to have too much sympathy for someone whose ills would appear on the face of it to be self-inflicted. The 34 year old former WBO Featherweight Champion will return at lightweight knowing that time is running out on a career that should have produced so much more with his talent. However, boxing once again has given a man a chance for redemption.
Depression and alcoholism have blighted the Glasgow man’s career and trouble never seems to be far away where Scott is concerned. He says he feels better now than when in his 20s, but then I suppose he would say that wouldn’t he.
He believes he can get a shot at a ‘world’ title at 135lbs and boxing is a strange enough business to believe that a Ricky Burns-Scott Harrison world title fight in 2013/14 is not beyond the realms of possibility – assuming Burns retains his title in the interim and Scott keeps trouble-free.
Harrison has served time in prison, but has paid his debt to society and is now back and should be afforded the opportunity to ply his trade. It’s hard to comprehend that Scott turned pro way back in 1996. He won the Commonwealth Featherweight title in February 2000 against Pat Mullings and in his next bout beat Tracy Harris Patterson in Madison Square Garden. He looked like he could be anything.
He defeated Richie Wenton in 2001 to win the British crown and defended against former WBO king Steve Robinson. After winning the WBO title from Julio Pablo Chacon, he defeated Wayne McCullough, lost and won in fights with Manuel Medina and made 8 defences. He never lost the crown in the ring.
The only other loss on his record was in his fourth contest when his was stopped by Welshman Miguel Matthews. Matthews at that stage had accumulated more than a 100 contests by the time he met Scott so certainly had experience on his side!
The fact is that if he can get anywhere near his old form then he could still play a part at lightweight domestically and in Europe and would be a ‘name’ worth having on anyone’s résumé.
And yet, Harrison’s bout is not the main event Saturday. That privilege goes to the rematch between Paul Appleby and John Simpson for Appleby’s Celtic Super-Featherweight title. Their first meeting in 2008 for the British Featherweight title was a cracking fight that Appleby won by a wafer thin unanimous decision.
Of course, as this is Harrison’s first venture into the ring in nearly seven years he will not be expected to dig too deep against an opponent. The man in the other corner on Friday will be the Hungarian Gyorgy Mizsei Jnr. Gyorgy Snr was an Olympic Bronze medallist at the Barcelona Olympics so clearly his son will have good grounding in the sport. Jnr is unbeaten in his seven pro fights, winning all (3 early) but has yet to fight outside of Eastern Europe and only turned professional three months ago!
He is yet to go past five rounds and clearly Scott’s camp feel he will be able to give him some rounds without troubling him too much.
As long as Harrison is as fit as he says and he really now has the focus needed where his career is concerned, this should be a fight that he can navigate well enough. The contest is scheduled for ten rounds for the International Masters Title. I would have thought a six or eight round contest would have sufficed for Harrison’s comeback considering the length of inactivity so Scott’s fitness may well be a factor if the 18 year old Hungarian proves a tricky customer. The Glasgow man on mid-to-late stoppage for me. If Harrison has real trouble against a seven fight novice, we can only assume that age, self-abuse and inactivity have left him a shell of once a once excellent fighter.
The Celtic title fight should be the fight of the night. Appleby, the champion, is 18-3 (11 early). All three defeats have occurred since the first meeting with Simpson. He lost the British crown via sixth round TKO to Martin Lindsay. Then lost a split 12 round decision for an Intercontinental crown to Ghanaian Joseph Laryea before being stopped in a war by Liam Walsh for the Commonwealth Super-Feather crown. How much the Walsh fight took out of Paul was answered in some respects as he annexed the Celtic title in March in his last outing. He outscored then-unbeaten Stephen Ormond over ten rounds. The Ormond fight was on the undercard of Ricky Burns-Paulus Moses at the Braehead Arena. Paul is still only 24 and certainly has something to offer at domestic level.
For Simpson, at 28, this will be his ninth bout since the first fight. He too has lost three fights since then. Two narrow points’ defeats to Stephen Smith (1 majority, 1 split decision) and a sickening knockout defeat to Lee Selby. Simpson was victim of one of the one punch knockouts of 2011 when Selby threw a left hook from his boots that crashed on John’s jaw. It was one of those knockouts where the man is ‘out’ before hitting the floor. Real highlight reel stuff. That was in December.
The six month break will have given Simpson time to take stock and rest up. How he has recovered from the Selby knockout, we – and he – will not know until the leather starts flying on Friday night.
Simpson’s record of 22 wins and 9 defeats looks modest, but he has had few easy outings and has only been stopped the once against Selby. A pro for nearly ten years it will be hard to see where Simpson goes if he is defeated here, particularly if it is a decisive defeat.
It looks as though it may come down to who has the most left. I think Appleby, despite having had some real battles in his career will prevail and I think Appleby has enough left to win a clear, but hard fought decision.