Boxing: Bitter Audley stripped of BBC title

Last fight night as Sydney hero makes a bitter exit

Audley Harrison has suffered the first defeat of his professional career - KO'd by the BBC, whose late-night screening of his 17th fight, against the Polish champion Tomasz Bronin next Saturday, will be the last under the exclusive arrangement that has made him a millionaire.

Audley Harrison has suffered the first defeat of his professional career - KO'd by the BBC, whose late-night screening of his 17th fight, against the Polish champion Tomasz Bronin next Saturday, will be the last under the exclusive arrangement that has made him a millionaire.

The Olympic super-heavyweight champion has revealed that no new deal has been negotiated and he is now turning his back on Britain, probably to fight only in the United States. He says: "I don't know when I am going to fight again either on television or in this country. So well done to those people who have been campaigning against me. Well done.''

The bitter ending of his glove affair with the BBC must be a massive blow to Harrison's ego. It comes about, he claims, because the Premiership is returning to the Beeb, who will have no room in future for Saturday-night fights. However, I understand that negotiations actually broke down because the BBC had demanded greater quality control of his opponents after the procession of inadequate no-hopers and has-beens who have crossed Harrison's path, albeit that this is the traditional route for a heavyweight hope. They felt they should have more say in whom he fights, and when, after their initial investment of £1m for his exclusive services following his Sydney triumph.

But Harrison insists he must continue to do things his way, and warns that boxing will now draw a blank on BBC screens because it no longer has an ally in Greg Dyke, an erstwhile boxing reporter, following his departure as director general.

So Harrison loses without throwing a punch, but he does throw a wobbly, ranting at the BBC, the media and promoter Frank Warren, who has labelled him "Fraudley'' and rejected Harrison's offer to fight the undefeated British and Commonwealth champion Matt Skelton for the BBC next week. Warren, who has an exclusive contract with Sky, wants this fight - a genuine attraction - to go to purse offers. But Harrison says: "I am not prepared to let him walk in a winner and walk out. This is all about my independence. I said that before I turned pro. I got my promoter's licence and people seemed to have a problem with that. Now they've blocked me out of Britain and off British TV.''

Unfortunately for Harrison, audience figures for his fights have dwindled, and the boys in the backroom holding the purse strings no longer see him through the same rose-tinted specs as those holding the microphones and waving the pom-poms. The cheerleading has finally fallen on deaf ears.

Harrison says he has "fought all the best available crap out there''. Interesting terminology, and that seems to be his problem. Along the way he has collected something called the World Boxing Foundation title, but it is a belt so flimsy it would not hold his trousers up.

Ricky Hatton, the biggest crowd-puller in British boxing, has demanded of Warren that he find him a better class of opponent from now on, something the self-promoted Harrison should have been asking of himself.

Harrison says that he is "disappointed for boxing fans everywhere, sad and disgusted''. He promises to take out his ire at London's Alexandra Palace on Bronin, similarly unbeaten in 26 bouts, mainly against opponents whose names are unknown.

Doubtless Harrison will polish off the Pole, but the danger is that unless he can rekindle public interest in his potential as a genuine world- champion prospect - which I believe he is - he will end up a back number, out of sight and out of mind.

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