During his desultory attempt to wrest the world heavyweight title from David Haye, Audley Harrison showed about as much resistance to his arch-rival’s advances as a condemned building does to the wrecking ball. The only positive from a wretched night for boxing from Harrison’s point of view was that he managed to trouser somewhere in the region of two million quid for eight minutes ‘work’ that he could now spend in retirement in the California hills with his lovely wife and family. But then a press release from Harrison’s promoters arrived in my inbox at 11.08 yesterday morning… It began with a quote from the American civil rights activist Benjamin Mays… “The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal.
The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It isn’t a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for.” Audley then proceeded to tell the world how he was merely ‘zoning in’ on David Haye’s rhythm during those forgettable three rounds at Manchester’s MEN Arena, then happened to get caught by a punch. Oh, and the fight was stopped prematurely, apparently. And because of this perceived injustice, our hero wasn’t ready to hang up the gloves just yet; certainly not until his ‘destiny’ is fulfilled. Talk about laughable. As a boxing fan brought up on the heroics of Barry McGuigan, Lloyd Honeyghan and Lennox Lewis, I was looking forward to saying goodbye to a man whose credentials as a prizefighter are about as solid as a Cornetto that’s been left out in the sun. Having met him, and found him to be a decent, likeable chap, I was even prepared to wish Audley well for the future, whatever he decided to do – as long as it didn’t involve lacing on the gloves and masquerading as a professional boxer. I’ve never been one to criticise a fighter. A man – or woman – who has the courage to step through those ropes into the lonely world that the boxer occupies has my utmost admiration. But not Harrison. Since his gutsy sequence of victories at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 that catapulted him to fame and fortune, Harrison has played the role of reluctant warrior with aplomb. His amateur style is simply not suited to the professional ranks where desire and bravery are as important as skill and technique among the long list of a boxer’s necessary attributes. Harrison is the sole reason that the BBC withdrew from boxing, taking the sport away from armchair fans and causing untold harm to the profile of the sport and its fighters.
Harrison’s derisory statement came just four days after arguably Britain’s finest current boxer, Carl Froch, was seeing off the not inconsiderable challenge of renowned banger Arthur Abraham to reclaim the WBC world super-middleweight. However, Froch’s magnificent effort was seen by just a few hundred British fans on a channel called Primetime after ‘The Cobra’s’ promoter, Mick Hennessy, was unable to strike a deal with any other broadcaster. Like Harrison, Froch signed a contract to fight on the BBC after turning professional, but after ‘A-Force’ rolled over a succession of bums, infuriated the public and left these shores with a million quid of taxpayers money, the corporation grew tired of the sport and pulled the plug. If they’d maintained their interest in boxing then Froch would be a household name in this country. The fact that he isn’t is a crying shame.