Boxing: Williams silences boos in exposure of Harrison hype

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The Independent Online

When the final bell thankfully sounded, sport in Britain had yet another people's champion in Danny Williams, but for the one-time national idol Audley Harrison, it was surely his final moment in a boxing ring in the British Isles.

Williams won the vacant Commonwealth heavyweight title and, judging by the non-stop boos for his opponent Harrison, he clearly won the hearts and minds of everybody who had paid an awful lot of money to attend the dire encounter in the flesh.

However, the truth about Saturday's over-hyped fight is that neither boxer really deserved to leave the ring as a hero. Williams took the split decision, and that was right, but he fell asleep in five or six rounds. As for Harrison, he was simply awful for 10 of the 12 rounds.

It is impossible to pick out a highlight before the bell sounded for round 10, but I will try. The crowd started to boo after round four, which was not really surprising because the pair had only exchanged a handful of punches.

Harrison picked up a little nick by the side of his left eye in round four, and he retreated even faster than he had done from the opening bell of the fight and dabbed with his glove on the wound like he was responding to a machete attack on his neck.

Harrison looked distressed by the tiny nick, but Williams was clearly not reading the same signals that everybody at ringside and everybody else in the arena could so clearly see. By round seven the boos were relentless, and in round nine there was a beautiful version of "What a load of rubbish".

The fans were right, but up until that point it really was only Williams who was genuinely trying to win the fight which he had started as an underdog.

Harrison was doing far too much smiling and giving Williams far too many knowing glances, but hardly throwing a single punch. After the fight, Harrison revealed that he had damaged his left hand in the early rounds and that had hindered his work. Boxers have always talked about injuries, but the brutal truth is that Harrison just really never looked like he was happy to be sharing the ring with a man that he had verbally belittled for the best part of five years.

Finally, in round 10, Williams managed to get close enough to land with a right hand that can only be described as "clubbing", which connected with the top of Harrison's head, and suddenly the Olympic champion from Sydney, the future of heavyweight boxing and the articulate spokesman for a generation of fighters was on the floor.

During the next 20 seconds, Harrison proved that he does at least have enough heart and desire to climb up from a knock-down and throw enough punches to stop an opponent repeating the act. The knock-down, the count of eight, and the 20 seconds of furious action after the referee said "box on" were surely the only highlights that Harrison can take from Saturday's fight.

Williams somehow failed to take care of business in round 10, and by the middle of round 11 he suddenly slowed down and looked in danger of being stopped himself.

Harrison threw more punches in round 11 than he had thrown in the previous 10 rounds, but Williams was blocking most of them and rolling away from the other punches.

The crowd at this stage had finally come alive and had stopped booing and started howling. It is fair to say that, other than Harrison's immediate family and the men and women he employs, there were no other fans of his in the ExCel Centre on Saturday night.

In the final round, the pair of hefty and exhausted heavyweights mostly held and hugged each other until the final bell.

Harrison appeared to believe he had done enough to win, which is surely one of boxing's most incredible acts of denial because Williams, even though he had not boxed very well, had done enough to take the verdict, win the Commonwealth title, and finally silence Harrison.

Frank Warren, the promoter, immediately announced that there would never be a rematch.