Boxing: Haye's chance to move into big time

David Haye is one fight away from occupying the enviable and often lucrative role of mandatory challenger for the World Boxing Council world cruiserweight title.

The fight, however, is against the unbeaten Italian Giacobbi Fragomeni, who in 1999 beat Haye 11-1 at an Olympic qualification tournament in Germany.

"I would say the fight was closer than 11-1 but it really was," Haye claimed. "What Fragomeni did was end my Olympic dream, and that is something that still upsets me."

Haye, 26, has been called British boxing's brightest and most exciting prospect on and off since about 1998, but for a variety of reasons he has not quite attained the success or the riches that he believes he is capable of.

So far, 16 of the 17 men that he has beaten have been stopped or knocked out and tonight, at York Hall, Bethnal Green, will be his third defence of the European cruiserweight title and also a final eliminator for the WBC belt.

As an amateur, Haye became the first and only British boxer to reach a World Amateur Championships final when he was beaten by Cuba's Odlandier Solis in Belfast in 2001.

In 2002 he finally turned professional and his first fight was shown live on the BBC. After 10 easy and early wins, which lasted a total off 11 completed rounds, he was matched with the veteran Carl Thompson for one of the sport's lesser-known world titles. Haye dominated from the start but ran out of ideas and stamina and was stopped in round five.

"The Thompson fight showed me just how far away from the prize I really was," he said. "I'm getting there slowly and beating Fragomeni is a major part of the process."

* Scott Harrison's defence of his WBO featherweight title remains in doubt after mixed reports about his fitness last night. Harrison's lawyer Massimo Franchi said the Scot had passed a British Boxing Board of Control-approved medical and will fight Nicky Cook on 9 December. But Harrison's manager Barry Hughes last night said that while the signs are good, he is waiting on official results.

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