Boxing: Harrison's ring education to end with Wembley test

The first part of Audley Harrison's professional career started with the comic disappearance of a former Walt Disney undercover detective and will end tomorrow with the inevitable bloody battering of a Balkan heavyweight champion, Ratko Draskovic, at the Wembley Conference Centre. It is the 10th and final fight of Harrison's present contract with the BBC.

It all started so long ago, back in May 2001 when over 7,000 people and seven million BBC viewers watched as Mike Middleton, a nice guy from Florida, fell over in round one at Wembley Arena. Two days earlier Middleton had packed pillows under the sheets and given his minders the slip and vanished from a cheap Wembley motel only to emerge the following day at the Hertfordshire offices of the promoter Frank Warren.

Middleton claimed he was owed some money and he eventually increased his agreed purse of $5,000 (£2,950) to over $35,000 because of an unfortunate oversight by Harrison's guardians in the original fight contract. Thankfully, Harrison laughed off the episode. "It got personal against Middleton and Frank Warren and his merry men got involved, but I just took care of business in the ring.''

Harrison's next fight was delayed because of a broken rib and, when he eventually fought, both the crowd and, more alarmingly, the television audience were very disappointing. However, in the Newcastle ring, he easily outpointed Kettering's trial horse Derek McCafferty over six decently competitive rounds. A month later a sickening body shot dropped an overweight Polish bouncer, Piotr Jurczyk, for the full count in round two in Glasgow and once again the attendance, which was less than 300, and the TV figures for the Olympic champion's third fight were unimpressive.

After Jurczyk, Harrison injured his shoulder taking part in a charity event and he was out until April last year when he knocked out the American Julius Long, who like Middleton was clueless under fire. Long entered the ring with a run of six wins all by knock-out, but he was truly hopeless and had difficulty standing up. Harrison obliged and he was soon on his back. Once again a small crowd watched the win and for his next fight Harrison was switched from Saturday night to a midweek slot.

In May 2002, Harrison out-pointed the Chesterfield butcher Mark Krence in London's Docklands and, in July, he was back at Wembley for six difficult rounds against the East End hard man Dominic Negus. The Krence and Negus fights were ideal for Harrison's ring education but the poor attendance and negative publicity that followed each contest cast doubt over his ring progress. Most disturbing of all was that Harrison and his camp continued to claim that all was going to plan when it was obvious that his popularity was in free-fall.

In October last year, an American called Wade Lewis, a club fighter with a few reasonable names on his record, was outboxed and dumped on the canvas in round two in front of 1,000 fans in Liverpool. The cheeky crowd enjoyed the one-sided spectacle but again the TV figures were poor. It was rumoured that crisis meetings were scheduled between Harrison's supporters and disgruntled executives at the BBC.

In November last year, Harrison fought in Atlantic City and connected with a beautiful short punch to knock out Shawn Robinson in one round. Once again Harrison's size was important as he took control before sending the part-time carpenter to dreamland. It was a good win but most of the British press ignored Harrison's first professional fight in America and it was shown the following day on BBC Grandstand. However, Harrison correctly defended the impressive win by comparing the way he beat Robinson with the way that the current British heavyweight champion, Danny Williams, did the same thing.

In February, Harrison went back to a live slot on the BBC on a Saturday night and boxed sensibly to halt America's Rob Galloway after four rounds. It was without doubt his best performance, but it lacked the ferocity that most boxing fans now require of heavyweights.

Tomorrow's opponent, Draskovic, has never been stopped and, even at the age of 37, should still prove a test until the accurate and powerful punching that few of Harrison's critics are prepared to admit exists takes its toll.

Harrison's next fight will be with the BBC. A new deal looks guaranteed, but the battle will be over how much. Last time Harrison received £1m, this time he will want more.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on