Boxing: Harrison roars back into contention

Discredited heavyweight prospect wreaks revenge on Williams as Amir learns from points victory
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The Independent Online

Audley Harrison sought redemption and won respect when he reversed his defeat of exactly a year ago over Danny Williams here last night. The former Olympic super heavyweight champion not only atoned for that abysmal performance but was a revelation as he battered the former British champion Williams to defeat in three bloody rounds.

Last year's encounter was a recipe for insomnia. Last night it was Williams who was almost put to sleep with one of the most ferocious attacks that Harrison has thrown in his professional career. Harrison's return was marked by a change of tactics, which saw him adopt the role of aggressor from the first bell. He initially damaging Williams' nose with his constant southpaw jab, an injury which caused the referee Richie Davies to call for a doctor in the second round.

Williams was allowed to continue but in the third the towering Harrison let rip with two left uppercuts that sent Williams tumbling down. He rose to take an eight count but a further flurry had him reeling again and Davies waved Harrison away after 2min 32sec of round three to celebrate a revenge that surely could not have tasted sweeter.

"Everyone has written me off but I'm up here, standing again," declared Harrison, who must have thought he had landed on his feet by getting this reprise against Williams after original opponent Matt Skelton withdrew with a mysterious hand injury. "I wasn't in the right place a year ago and it showed up in the ring. I came back today with my closet cleared out, I want to fight and all I ask is that people let me go on in my career. My goal is to be heavyweight champion."

Harrison had desperately needed to prove that at 35 he still has the stomach for a fight and the will to stretch himself towards a world title shot. But the A Force still has some way to go before he is back on the A list. Williams, at 19st 1lb, was 21 pounds lighter than when he lost to Skelton but even so he seemed slow and sluggish, and this time did not possess the armoury to prevent Harrison's remarkable resurrection.

While it lasted, the fight was a rumbustious bar-room brawl of a scrap but Harrison this time showed he had the heart that many had questioned since he turned professional. It was by far the most impressive victory of his career. As for Williams, the one time conqueror of Mike Tyson, it seems he is now the one who has nowhere left to go.

Acquiring his first title ­ though the IBF light-welterweight belt is actually more of a label ­ was the icing on the 20th birthday cake for Amir Khan. But he had to work the hardest of his 10-bout career to achieve it against the Frenchman Rachid Drilzane, even suffering the indignity of a seventh-round knockdown before claiming a unanimous points victory on the scorecards of all three judges.

The only round Amir lost was that seventh, when he fell victim to what in boxing terms is called a "flash knockdown", being caught near the ropes by a right hook as he slipped. Although Amir protested, referee Paul Thomas correctly insisted on giving him a standing count as his gloves had touched the floor.

Apart from that, it was an exemplary exhibition by the boy from Bolton, taken beyond six rounds for the first time. Yet he could not wipe the ever present smile off the face of the man from Marseilles. It was a worthy test. We know Amir has the skills, now we know he has the stamina.

Glasgow's John Simpson won the British featherweight title at the third attempt, stopping the unbeaten holder, Andy Morris of Manchester, near the end of the fifth round. Morris had sustained a lacerated left eyebrow and was ruled unable to continue.

Nicky Cook, who was to have challenged for the world featherweight title before the WBO (now AWOL) champion Scott Harrison fell off the wagon on the way to the last-chance saloon, had a consolation eight-round victory. It was obviously an anti-climactic occasion for the Londoner, as well as a sizeable drop in purse money as he out-pointed Coventry journeyman Harry Ramagoadi in eight rounds.

At least Cook did not let his training go to waste and retained his sense of humour. He suggested that Harrison's weight troubles had been caused by an excess of haggis after his release from a Spanish jail. It wasn't the haggis that was Harrison's problem, it was the porridge.