Boxing: Jail helped my fitness, insists Harrison

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The Independent Online

After five weeks in a Spanish prison Scott Harrison insisted yesterday that his preparation for his World Boxing Organisation featherweight title defence in London on 9 December has been perfect.

Harrison, 29, was released last week on unconditional bail and returned to Glasgow to prepare for his latest fight convinced that the ingenious gym equipment that was made for him and the diet of rice and boiled fish had helped his progress.

"It has given me far more discipline and inevitably it has made me stronger," said Harrison, who reluctantly flew from his Glasgow home and base to attend yesterday's media conference in central London.

In one of many tetchy exchanges with his promoter Frank Warren, Harrison pointed out rather gleefully that his challenger, Nicky Cook, had not broken his training regime in Tenerife to attend the conference.

Last week, Harrison was given just 48 hours to spend with his family after his release before the British Boxing Board of Control swooped on his training base and carried out a series of unprecedented medical and psychological exams on the troubled fighter.

"It was not easy but I came through with a clean medical bill. I'm ready to fight. I want to fight and I can't wait to fight," continued Harrison.

"I have to admit there were nights when I sat in my cell looking up at the ceiling thinking that the fight would never happen but I just thank God that it will and that I'm here now.

"In prison I was able to train every day and the other cons helped me put stuff together that I needed. One made me a skipping rope and that was crucial because it was not like I could run too far.

"I needed weights so another one snapped a broom in half and ripped open a big can and filled the halves of the can with concrete and water. There were a lot of cons in there supporting me and helping me.

"Some gave me their fruit and their yoghurts to help my diet. Not just the British but some of the Spanish and the others. It was like the UN," said Harrison, who started his brief sojourn in the prison after Spanish police arrested him and charged him with two counts of assault and one of attempted car theft.

The trouble in Spain followed arrests in Scotland in April and May of a year that the boxer will long to forget. In May, a title defence in Belfast was postponed just before the fight and there were serious and disturbing reports about Harrison's problems with alcohol.

The rumours refused to go away and Harrison locked himself in isolation at John Breen's gym in Belfast in an attempt to get his body and mind right for fighting once again.

However, by the end of the summer Harrison had left Belfast and was in and out of rehabilitation centres in England and Scotland and it finally looked like his 10-year career and his four years as world champion were over. A move to Spain in one final attempt to get away from his problems followed in September but that ended with his arrest and imprisonment.

"I won't lie and say it has been an easy year but a lot of the stories are out of control," claimed Harrison. "I've been in the papers all year for the things I'm supposed to have done and there are a lot of mistakes and exaggerations. Also, my family has been in the papers and that's just not right.

"I'm back from Spain now, the training is going perfect and the sparring is on track. I'm not behind in my preparation and that is the truth," Harrison insisted.

However, the WBO has warned Harrison that it will strip away his title if there is one more incident before the 9 December fight and yesterday Warren reinforced just how serious Harrison's plight is.

"It's over for Scott if anything goes wrong," said Warren, but Harrison interrupted him, leaning forward and fixing his promoter with what can only be described as an icy stare.

"Don't worry Frank, it's behind me now and nothing, not one thing, will go wrong," the boxer said. "I will smash Nicky Cook on 9 December and then we can all move forward."