Boxing: Audley tries to kickstart career but no such problems for his namesake

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The Independent Online

British boxing is enjoying its biggest buzz for years, and one wonders whether the good vibrations currently reverberating around Manchester this weekend are causing tremors in the United States, notably on the Indian reservation in California where on Thursday Audley Harrison resumes his role as the fight game's forgotten man. The former Olympic champion locks fists with a heavyweight from Ohio, Robert Davis, his 18th opponent in the five years that have seen him go from the golden boy of Sydney to boxing's going-nowhere land.

British boxing is enjoying its biggest buzz for years, and one wonders whether the good vibrations currently reverberating around Manchester this weekend are causing tremors in the United States, notably on the Indian reservation in California where on Thursday Audley Harrison resumes his role as the fight game's forgotten man. The former Olympic champion locks fists with a heavyweight from Ohio, Robert Davis, his 18th opponent in the five years that have seen him go from the golden boy of Sydney to boxing's going-nowhere land.

The 33-year-old Harrison would never admit to being envious of his namesake, Scott, who successfully defended his World Boxing Organisation featherweight title against Michael Brodie in Friday night's curtain-raiser at the MEN Arena to the production number staged in the early hours of this morning between Kostya Tszyu and Ricky Hatton. But there has to be an element of wistfulness as Audley looks at what might have been instead of wondering what might yet be.

The Glaswegian Harrison is now looking forward to making a bigger name for himself in America than Audley has since turning his back on Britain. His four-round KO of the local battler Brodiewas screened throughout the US by Showtime. Audley's forthcoming engagement is not in his adopted Las Vegas but in the Pechanga resort in Temecula, a place no one here has heard of, on a TV show (FSN's Best Damn Sports Show Period) that is hardly big boxing box-office.

Meanwhile, the featherweight Harrison is himself eyeing the bright lights of Las Vegas for a possible meeting with the Naz nemesis Marco Antonio Barrera - though he would need to move up to super-featherweight - or a potential unification contest with the IBF-WBA champion, Juan Manuel Marquez, whose promoter, Bob Arum, has already had discussions with Harrison's man Frank Warren. "There are now great opportunities for Scott," says Warren. "The Americans will have seen he's their type of fighter, aggressive and exciting. He will have a big fight before the end of the year.'' It was a single punch from Harrison after 46 seconds of the fourth round which sent the 31-year-old Brodie into an already anticipated retire-ment. A left hook to the stomach finally drained him of both wind and desire.

"That's the end for me, I'm finished,'' he said after his fourth attempt to win a version of the world title. "I've had my best shots.'' However, it was Harrison's best shot which inflicted the damage. "He fought a helluva fight for three rounds and dug deep,'' said the Scot. But Harrison himself dug even deeper - a border-line blow right into Brodie's solar plexus which had followed similar punches at the end of the third and earlier in the fourth, some of them suspiciously low.

Harrison, 27, said he felt this win had rejuvenated his career: "I'm ready to fight anyone they put in front of me.'' And he did not mean the bars of East Kilbride from which he is banned. "That's all behind me. My partner, Jackie, has just told me I'm to be a father for the second time, so my life is getting sorted."

No doubt Audley will be saying something similar next weekend before he too, settles into domesticity; he marries in August. At 6ft 3in, with 31 wins and six losses, Thursday's opponent seems as good as anyone he has faced before, which is not saying very much. Davis's chin is presumably there to test the hand that has again undergone surgery.

Harrison continues to claim he has been driven out of Britain by boxing politics, "though I'll always be fighting for Britain". Unfortunately, Britain's TV channels and promoters are no longer fighting for him, which seems a pity at a time when the sport is picking itself up from the canvas. ITV are about to sign a deal with Warren that will take Amir Khan towards superstardom, and Sky have announced a package that will see them screen five world and four British title fights with a number of promoters. This week also sees a three-part Channel 4 documentary, The School of Hard Knocks, starting on Monday, about Harrison's alma mater, Repton Boys' Club, that is worth watching.

Perhaps less so is Mike Tyson's attempt at further rehabilitation when he meets the Irish-born Kevin McBride in Washington DC on Saturday. McBride is 6ft 6in, slow and cumbersome, though he can bang a bit. He has obviously been handpicked, but if he can survive three rounds, as Danny Williams did, all bets are off. "I can be champ again,'' vows Tyson, 39 this month. "Just look what's out there.'' Another defeat and he could be ready for Audley Harrison.

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