When Audley Harrison won his gold medal at the Sydney Olympics, it seemed that glory and fame were within his reach. He was physically impressive, strong, had the necessary skills and he was loved by the British public. He signed a £2m pound TV deal with the BBC and it seemed that he was set to box his way to a world title in front of the nation. His mantra was clear and was often repeated for anyone who would listen: “I will be world champion.”
What happened next, as they say, is history but unfortunately for Fr-Audley it wasn’t the type of history that he had hoped to make. He won his first 19 fights, none of them impressively, before Danny Williams handed him his first defeat in a drab encounter. The British public rejoiced. Audley had fallen from grace, in a big way. I can’t find video to show it, but the way in which promoter Frank Warren celebrated Williams’ knockdown of Harrison in the 10th round was a metaphor for the nation. Boy, were they delighted to see him on his ass.
Since then Audley has lost three more times – to the average Dominick Guinn, to Michael Sprott and to Belfast taxi driver Martin Rogan. Rogan got the fight with Audley on the back of his win in the original Prizefighter tournament and now, after winning another version of it last night, Audley will be hoping that Prizefighter can do the same for him.
For those of you who don’t know, Prizefighter is one of the ways in which boxing is supposedly fighting back against the threat of the UFC and the rest of the mixed-martial arts scene. I don’t really like it, much as I did enjoy last night’s event. In short, it’s an eight-man knockout tournament which requires the champion to win three fights in the one night. It works, sure, but it’s boxing for people with A.D.D. The longer forms of the sport will always be better in my eyes.
Audley really shouldn’t be fighting in something like this. He should be better than it. Yet his career is now at the point where he had no option but to. To give him credit, he took his chance and was crowned the winner last night. He then repeated the mantra we’d heard so many times: “there's still hope for me and hope for Britain to have a world champion.” I doubt it. Audley beat Coleman Barrett, Danny Hughes and Scott Belshaw last night, a series of moderate fighters but no more. To think that a win over a Galwegian who is considerably lighter and has less experience would put him in the frame for a world title shot is ludicrous.
The old boxing adage goes “you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate” and this is Harrison’s best hope. He needs another TV deal, and he needs to engage with the British public in a way he’s not done since he was basking in the glow of his Sydney triumph. That, however, seems unlikely.