Boxing; Quicksilver Amir takes another big step forward

Harrison struggles but prodigy stays on course to top
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The Independent Online

It was something of a laboured performance by the Scot against an opponent with a reasonable pedigree, having lost only two of his 41 fights.

Earlier we had seen a quality performance by Amir Khan, who stopped journeyman Steve Gethin in three rounds for his third professional victory. A fight and a result which he used to further his fistic education. A real sparkler from Amir on boxing's bonfire night whereas Harrison was just a bit of a damp squib against an opponent who goes by the name of "Skinny".

At his best, Harrison is one of the most ferocious sluggers in the business but in this encounter, he seemed to have lost some of his old snap, which seems to suggest that he is having trouble making the weight.

Someone with more aggressive intent than Hussein might have given the Glaswegian an uncomfortable night but Harrison prevailed over the 12 rounds with conclusive scoring from the judges, two of whom marked it 116-111 and the third 117-111.

Harrison survived some eyebrow damage sustained in the second round and briefly floored Hussein with a clipping left hand in the fifth. But he was himself caught twice by clubbing rights in the latter stages of a fight with his stamina ebbing away.

Promoter Frank Warren has confirmed that Harrison will now make a mandatory defence against Joan Guzman of the Dominican Republic in January, but Harrison will need to be rather more effective if he really is to establish himself as an authentic world champion.

A sell-out crowd of 6,000 as many of whom had come to see Amir as to root for Harrison were dazzled, as was opponent Gethin by the youngster's silver sequinned shorts trimmed with tartan. Amir's victory over the 27-year-old Walsall car mechanic who had lost three times as many bouts as he had won was predictable. Gethin had been successful only twice in his previous 15 bouts and on this occasion he soon discovered he was way out of his depth. Amir produced an impressive array of punches, mixing his body shots with a newly-developed hook off the jab which kept Gethin on the retreat. Occasionally the midlander fired back and, curiously, Amir on two occasions turned to his corner with a look which enquired "What should I do next?"

"Relax, relax" came the response from trainer Oliver Harrison but Amir does not seem to know the meaning of the word yet. He continued to flail away until, 49 seconds into the third round, the referee Victor Loughlin called a halt. There were boos from the crowd, who still seemed to think that Gethin had more to offer but the referee's decision was correct. Gethin was outclassed and Amir was outstanding. Up here they always like to see a bit of blood.

Of course, he still has a lot to learn. The Bolton wanderer - this was his third bout in as many locations - moves his boxing roadshow to London on 10 December two days after his 19th birthday when he hopes to step up a gear against slightly stiffer opposition.

Before the bout Gethin had said; "One day Amir will be world champion and it will be nice to say to my baby son Thomas 'I fought him'." Well, at least that's one for the scrapbook.

Amir said: "I feel I am getting stronger with every fight and I am ready to meet stronger opposition who will push me harder. I'm happy to take on anyone they put in front of me."

Now here's a thought. Naseem Hamed, with whom Amir has been compared, has made his biannual vow to make a come-back. One doubts he is serious but if he is it will not be at his old championship limit of featherweight. More likely he will be up to Amir's division.

An up and coming Amir versus an over-the-hill Naz in about 18 months? What a fight that would be. It sounds improbable but as Ricky Hatton's father said recently when asked if his son would ever fight again for estranged promoter Warren: "In boxing, you never say never."

Andy Morris, a Commonwealth Games bronze medallist from Manchester, claimed the vacant British featherweight title with a hard-fought, though unanimous points decision over fellow 22-year-old John Simpson of Glasgow.