Boxing: The Harrisons - a soap with punch

Prime-time drama starring two very different men and two very different careers at the crossroads
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The Independent Online

They are labelling next Saturday's fight night at London's ExCel Centre the Last Chance Saloon, and for once the billing justifies the hype. Riding into town are the Harrisons: Big Audley, from Willesden via Las Vegas; and wee Scott, from Glasgow by way of Malaga jail.

Harrison A was to have challenged for Matt Skelton's Commonwealth heavyweight title; instead he returns to the arena where he was humbled by Danny Williams exactly a year to the day later for a surprise reprise following Skelton's withdrawal on Friday with a hand injury. Harrison S defends his World Boxing Organisation featherweight title against the unbeaten Londoner Nicky Cook, the British, Commonwealth and European champ-ion. Last Chance Saloon indeed for Audley and Scott, though for different reasons.

Fortunately, Williams was in training for a British title fight against the new champion, Scott Gammer, which has been postponed, and he reckons that even with just a week's notice he will be too good for Harrison again. "Now I can really end his career once and for all," he threatens. "He will have no excuses when I smash him up."

However, the prospects of a Harrison renaissance might seem a little brighter in view of Williams's subsequent loss of his Commonwealth title to the in-your-face Skelton earlier this year, especially if the big man from Brixton comes in at anything like the massive 20st 8lb he weighed for that fight.

After losing to Williams last time Harrison returned to the United States, became a parent, turned 35, was beaten again by the useful Dominick Guin but managed a victory over a nondescript foe.

Audley promises we will see a different fighter from the tepid version of the Olympic super- heavyweight champion who performed so lamentably a year ago when he was cut, floored and booed from the ring after a split decision. There has been a fair amount of pride-swallowing. "My intentions were honourable but that's the way the cookie crumbles," he says. "I know everyone has written me off, but a door has opened again and it is an opportunity I am going to take." He has certainly changed his tune, admitting he may well have been wrong going down the Sinatra route by insisting on doing everything his way.

Mickey Duff, Frank Warren's predecessor as the busiest promoter in the business, tells a wonderful story about how he regularly billed a small-hall fighter named Yolande Pompey until he scraped a win against an ageing Randolph Turpin. Pompey's manager, Jack Burns, then refused to do business with Duff, saying: "We're strictly big league now." Pompey subsequently lost his next three bouts and Duff's phone rang. It was Burns. "Mickey, we're ready for you again."

Well, Harrison is ready for Warren again. But is he ready for Williams again? The old Audley - the one at the Sydney Olympics - has the skill to fend off Williams; whether he has the heart and inclination is another matter.

The featherweight Harrison has certainly been thrown out of some saloons in his time - his incarceration for five weeks in Spain for serious assault charges has been well chronicled - but the bailed boxer says he is "bang on" after being banged up for five weeks. Whether he should be in the ring against Cook or anyone else is debatable, but the British Boxing Board of Control are over a barrel, as he has been given a clean bill of health, despite having been diagnosed with a psychological disorder earlier this year and enduring a spell in the Priory.

Apart from his Spanish inquis-ition he is facing two charges in Glasgow in the new year which carry possible prison sentences, so it is hardly a fortuitous time for the Glaswegian.

Both Cook and Scott will have their fathers in their corners, and both have been training in Spain, although Scott's workouts were confined to the prison yard. Typically, he was in "See you, Jimmy" mode when the pair clashed verbally last week. Cook, who could be typecast for EastEnders, does not have a reputation for being the heaviest puncher in the business, but he has stopped one more opponent than Scott. "That tells you everything," he says.

He is certainly unfazed by the Scot's unabashed arrogance, even when Scott snapped: "I've never hated any opponent more than I do you."

This was a sample of their unfriendly exchanges. "You've never fought anyone of my class," declared Scott. "You wait and see, pal."

"Shut your mouth, I'm speaking," retorted Cook.

"You shut your noise or I'll fucking shut your noise," Harrison fired back."

"Shut it," said Cook, "I'm speaking."

"You're a typical bigmouth," replied Scott. "I've seen your likes before, pal."

"Oh yeah?" said Cook. "You just make sure you turn up."

It is fair to say there is a bit of an edge to this bout. If the weight-worried Scott does not stop Cook in the first half of the fight he could be in trouble over the last six rounds, but the real question is whether he can keep out of trouble for the next six days.

Amir Khan turns 20 the day before he fights on the same bill. He seems to have been handed a birthday present in the form of his French opponent, Rachid Drilzane, who has lost three of his 13 fights and never stopped anyone. It is nominally Amir's first eight-rounder, but if it goes beyond two it will be a surprise, but one doubts that ITV will be bothered. As long as Amir razzle-dazzles them, who cares? Yet.

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