As one Olympic medallist to another, Audley Harrison has some advice for the young man who has supplanted him as Britain's fistic icon: "Go for it, son."
As one Olympic medallist to another, Audley Harrison has some advice for the young man who has supplanted him as Britain's fistic icon: "Go for it, son." The 2000 super-heavyweight champion, whose own career has been in limbo, was not just talking about the impending professional future of Amir Khan but the probability of the hero of Athens signing for the promoter with whom Harrison himself has resolutely refused to do business, Frank Warren.
Says Harrison: "From Amir's point of view, Frank Warren is the only game in town. He's the only promoter who has regular television dates, and Amir needs this exposure. There are some good fighters around, but now the BBC have gone they won't get shown unless they are with Warren.
"Amir's people are going to have to do business with him, and they may not have a problem with that. Obviously I did. But the difference is that he's an 18-year-old kid with the whole world ahead of him. I was 10 years older, with different objectives. He's already got people around him to take care of business out of the ring. I might have felt differently at 18, but what I knew then and what I knew at 29 is a totally different thing. Most boxers who turn pro in their later years want to have complete control of their careers."
Harrison, now 33, and based in Las Vegas, where he will marry in July, was on a flying visit to London to proclaim the resurrection of his own career, which he admits "has kinda been derailed" since his divorce from the BBC. But he assures us it will be back on track this summer, beginning with a bout in California on 9 June against one Robert "Desert Storm" Davis, who at least seems moderately better than the original choice, Billy Zumbrun (or was it "Some Bum"?).
Amir himself, who, barring further unforeseen hitches, will finally catch up again with his Olympic conqueror, Mario Kindelan, at a black-tie charity show in the Premier Suite in Bolton's Reebok Stadium on Saturday night, is still keeping his guard up over if, when and with whom he will turn pro. There is little doubt he will, and that a deal has already been struck with Warren. But if the promoter has his way, Amir will not follow the Audley route as an instant main-eventer. Saturday will be the first and last time he headines a bill for at least the first 18 months of his pro career.
"I'd want him to get plenty of experience on the undercard and treat the early stages as a professional apprenticeship, which is what Audley should have done," he says.
Warren admits he did not want Amir to take on the ringwise Cuban maestro for the third time (they also boxed before the Olympics) in what seems his amateur farewell, but now believes that this is actually one fight he cannot lose, even if he does. "Everything from this will be positive. The more I think about it the more I think he will gain from it." The match has been made at slightly over their Olympic weight of 60kg (lightweight), and Amir insists he is stronger now than he was in Athens, despite those post-Games distractions. "Last time he beat me by tactics. It was like a game of chess. This will be a different fight, because I've learned that little bit more since then but there's nothing more he can learn."
That may well be because Kindelan, at 33, knows it all, and may again know too much for Amir. But the teenager has never lacked brio. "Kindelan hasn't hurt me in two fights. He is not a big puncher. It's his timing that's so good. But when he fought here last month [easily defeating Frankie Gavin] I saw signs of laziness. His hands were low, he was too casual. If he had boxed me that way, that day, it would have been a different result."
The four-rounder will be shown live by ITV1 at 9.30pm, the first time a telecast has been built around a single amateur bout. Experienced fight hand Jim Rosenthal will be the commentator, with Ricky Hatton casting an analytical eye over his potential stablemate.Reuse content