Harrison still to win the fight for respect

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The Independent Online

There was a time when British boxing prospects developed their talents away from the glare and publicity but Audley Harrison has decided to do everything in public.

On Saturday night at the Kelvin Hall here he was once again the main attraction and won his third professional fight when he landed with a punch, arguably the best he has thrown in his career, to stop Poland's Piotr Jurczyk in round two in front of a crowd of less than 600.

It was not a good fight to watch but then anybody who pays money and turns on the BBC when Harrison is fighting should not expect to see a fight, even if the boxer, and the many people he is surrounded by, try to convince everybody else that the fight is for real. At this stage in his career his encounters are pure light entertainment and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

There is a possibility that, after three, four or five more mismatches, the public will decide not to watch him but there is also a chance, a very real chance, that suddenly he will become popular simply because he is tireless in his self-promotion and fanatical in his self-belief.

On Saturday night he was already starting to breathe heavily before a short, southpaw, right hook landed in Jurczyk's ample stomach and forced the Polish boxer to retreat in pain. The referee, Richie Davies, had no option but to stop the fight.

Amazingly, Harrison tried to claim that his opponent was in decent shape when it was clear to anybody watching on TV, or in the small crowd, that Jurczyk was in dreadful shape. Once again Harrison missed the point and he should have just concentrated on what he is doing and not tried to defend the quality of his opponent.

''I'm not mugging the public,'' claimed Harrison. "I've now had three fights and I'm getting a lot of criticism but I'm a man, not a mouse, and I can take it.'' In the ring Harrison is not in any way defrauding the public but before each fight he has trouble keeping his mouth closed.

The plan now for Harrison, who is in charge of every part of his career, is to box in London on 1 December. He will pick himself another bum and then, hopefully, not claim that the opponent is durable or will give him a test. The offensive part of the whole Harrison circus during the last eight months has been the insistence that the men he so easily beats are actually dangerous.

There was a world title fight on the undercard and Runcorn's Robin Reid knocked out Argentina's Jorge Sclarandi after 2:57 of round three with the top of his head. Sclarandi collapsed dramatically to the canvas clutching his busted nose after a vicious, but accidental, clash of heads.

Before the ending, which was both unusual and welcome, Reid and Sclarandi had wrestled their way through two uneventful rounds and there was a very real prospect that the maul would last the full distance of 12 rounds. When it was over the Argentinian lodged an official complaint with the British Boxing Board of Control claiming the clash was a deliberate butt, even though it was clearly accidental.

Reid will join Harrison on the show in December and, hopefully, the promoter, Jess Harding, who has a four-fight deal with Harrison, will receive the necessary funds to provide Reid, who retained his World Boxing Federation supermiddleweight title here, with a quality test.

It remains to be seen just how much better Harrison is but, for once, his body looked like it was in shape. For heavyweights that is half of the struggle.

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