Boxing: Harrison the quiet hero set to extend his reign

Glasgow's WBO featherweight champion should add Medina to impressive list of conquests tonight
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The Independent Online

So far there has not been any hype in the short and neglected career of Glasgow's Scott Harrison as he has moved from amateur fighter to Commonwealth champion and then, last October against the odds, to the world title.

Tonight, Harrison will enter the ring at the Braehead Arena, a shopping complex halfway between Glasgow city and the airport, for the third fight in succession against one of the sport's best at his chosen weight. In the opposite corner will be Mexico's Manuel Medina, a veteran of 74 fights who started his career in Tijuana car parks for a few pesos when he was just 14. He is 32 now but far from at the end of his career.

Last October, Harrison fought Argentina's Juan Pablo Chacon for the World Boxing Organisation featherweight title at the Braehead Arena and stunned the champion with a display of calculated brilliance. Even at the end, when the judges decided that Chacon had won just one or two rounds, the fallen champion was wandering around the ring looking for answers. It was a shock performance of elegant boxing from Harrison against a world-class operator and even Scotland's greatest fighter, Ken Buchanan, stood and applauded from ringside.

In March, Belfast's Wayne McCullough arrived for his turn at Harrison and he was confident that he had the necessary skills to win. McCullough lost every round and should have been spared the last few brutal rounds as Harrison's punches slowly transformed the outline of the Irishman's face with an accuracy and power that led to a chorus of disapproval from the people at ringside.

McCullough spent three days in hospital after the fight suffering from exhaustion, but what really ruined his head was confusion because he simply could not work out how Harrison was that good. Chacon had said the same thing and for a world-class fighter to have no idea how he has lost is a great mental barrier for him to overcome in the future.

Medina has won and lost world titles on a regular basis for the last decade and has traded punches with some of the sport's best featherweights during his remarkable career.

In 1996, he was close to beating Naseem Hamed at his peak before he was knocked out by one punch in round 11. Hamed in 1996 was arguably one of the best fighters in the world and should not be confused with the man that lost to Marco Antonio Barrera two years ago.

Medina thinks Harrison is the easiest world title fight that he has ever had and he has had 17 so far. "I will win every round because he is a boy," Medina said.

Harrison left Chacon and McCullough bewildered at the end of 12 rounds because he defied the form book and it is hard to think of a British fighter at any time meeting and beating three boxers as good as Chacon, McCullough and Medina in successive fights. The list of men that Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton fight has for a long time been sprinkled with easy touches in between far more difficult fights because that is the way that the modern business works.

When Harrison turned professional in 1996 he left behind a career in the amateurs at the very top level, which included reaching the last eight at the European championships in Velje, Denmark, that same year. Harrison actually qualified for the Atlanta Olympics in Velje but so did England's David Burke and a controversial and hastily arranged box-off took place.

Harrison lost by a narrow decision, and the defeat left him with four years of waiting for the next Olympics or the reality of turning pro.

From the start of Harrison's career he met better fighters than most recently signed amateurs. He was good enough to avoid a lengthy apprenticeship plundering the sport's serial losers in empty but traditional fights. He lost on a cut in his fourth fight and drew his fifth in France, but he was learning and in his 11th and 12th fights he met former British and world champions. He looked good and the trade noticed.

He won a meaningless international belt when he beat the American Tom Johnson on points in his 13th fight and then added the British and Commonwealth titles before making defences against five or six excellent domestic boxers. None of his challengers lasted past five rounds, but still Harrison was relatively unknown and certainly not part of the élite British group. Last October all that changed when he beat Chacon.

If Harrison can beat Medina then there is a real chance that his promoter, Frank Warren, can do business with Barrera and a fight can be arranged before Christmas. A year ago the fight would have been hard to imagine but Barrera is showing signs of decay after a decade of abuse in the ring and Harrison is obviously a lot better than anybody expects him to be. However, Barrera, like Chacon, McCullough and Medina, will be convinced that Harrison is easy to beat.

But Hamed was in a similar situation to Harrison once because high-quality fighters were utterly convinced that they could beat him. They were wrong about Hamed too.

Boxing has been kind to Harrison since the morning in Velje when he lost his chance at winning an Olympic medal, but for once the relative riches from prizefighting have clearly not changed him. He moved from the council flat in Cambuslang, where he had lived for 25 years, to a bungalow with five bedrooms that is only a hundred metres away. He still drinks with the same people, he is trained by his father, Peter, and when he goes to the gym he carries his own bag. He is an old-fashioned champion and fans in Glasgow pack his fights.

Tonight, Harrison has been told he will be "snapped like a taco" but he never replied to Medina's comment. "Why would he say that? He's not even a big puncher," Harrison observed later. His accent is strong and his thoughts are pragmatic.

The fight will not be as easy as some predict because Medina has a shocking resistance to being hit, which is handy and at the same time slightly alarming. Harrison will win, it will be a good fight, but there will not be any hype. There never is.

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