Boxing: Belting performance from Harrison puts him in line for a big future

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The Independent Online

Audley Harrison is now a man of letters, although they hardly spell world champion yet. But his acquisition of the WBF (World Boxing Federation) belt here last night was at least a useful appendage along the way to perhaps a genuine title of the sort just relinquished by his onlooking mentor and co-promoter Lennox Lewis.

Audley Harrison is now a man of letters, although they hardly spell world champion yet. But his acquisition of the WBF (World Boxing Federation) belt here last night was at least a useful appendage along the way to perhaps a genuine title of the sort just relinquished by his onlooking mentor and co-promoter Lennox Lewis.

Harrison, 32, wrested this particular tinsel title with a four-round knockout of the holder Richel Hersisia, aka the Dutch Sonny Liston.

The real Sonny Liston would be turning in his Las Vegas grave at the inadequacy of the man who purloined his nom de guerre but at least, as Harrison said afterwards, Hersisia came to fight even if his tactics were largely clumsy.

The light went out on the 29-year-old former electrician from The Hague after two minutes of the fourth round. He had managed to ruffle Harrison for the first time and Harrison's response was to cut loose and unload a series of hooks and upper cuts that dropped Hersisia in a corner where he never looked like beating the count.

This brought to an end his own unbeaten career of 21 fights and provided Harrison with his 15th successive victory and his most impressive. He stood head and shoulders above Hersisia in every sense and as the Dutchman's manufactured record suggested he really did not provide much of a test. But Harrison did what he had to do and in some style after a certain untidiness in the earlier rounds.

I have always believed that the Olympic champion is a true world title contender but his developing career has not been properly serviced by fighting hand-picked no-hopers. He is capable of meeting and beating better men than those who have been on his chopping list since he began his pro career at the same arena three years ago.

Hersisia's face suffered something of a red nose day from Harrison's persistent, stabbing southpaw jab before he was cut down but Harrison insisted: "He caught me with some good shots but I kept working with my jab and when I start to throw combination punches like that it is going to be hard for any heavyweight to take them.

"This is my first belt and while I know I am not a world champion yet I have graduated from the Nationwide League to the Premiership and I'm now in contention for a European title.''

Lewis, too, was impressed. "He definitely has the pedigree and he can box better inside than I can.'' Praise from Caesar which Harrison will carry with him with his promise to step up the class of opposition in his next three bouts in Britain before returning to resume his higher education in the US.

His improvement in both technique and physique is evident. Wembley Arena has seen bigger headline fights and certainly bigger crowds. Harrison's self-promotional patter has yet to convince the multitudes but at least his fists are starting to do the talking.

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