Inside Lines: The sinking flagship as Audley proves turn-off

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The Independent Online

Audley Harrison, not so long ago the principal boy of BBC boxing, seems to have become the Cinderella fella. His next fight, against the former Australian heavyweight champion Colin Wilson, goes out just before the clock strikes midnight on Wednesday, several hours after it has taken place in Sydney. No suggestion of a glass slipper being involved, though the Aussie's record suggests he has a bit of a glass jaw. Apparently the Beeb fear not so much a pantomime as a farce, rather like the infamous mismatch between Frank Bruno and Chuck Gardner, which is why they are burying the bout in the graveyard slot. Indeed, for the first time since they signed up the Olympic super-heavyweight champion as the flagship of their boxing comeback, they are not sending a commentary team to cover it. The relationship between autocratic Audley, now self-managed and promoted, and his BBC paymasters is at its lowest ebb. Serious doubts have been expressed at a high level over his continued insistence on handpicking opponents, and insiders say there was even a debate as to whether this fight, his 12th as a professional, should be shown at all. It is questionable whether Wilson, a fellow 31-year-old southpaw who was floored three times and stopped in six rounds by a Ugandan last time out (his 16th loss in 40 fights, including a defeat by old Joe Bugner) would have been regarded as a suitable opponent had the fight been taking place here instead of Sydney, where the Briton won his Olympic title. Boxing needs Harrison to make a fist of it, and he insists he is on course to be world champion by the time he is 34. But to achieve this goal what he needs are not more stiffs, but stiffer opposition. Meanwhile, we hear that the deeply troubled Bruno is telling friends he plans to fight Mike Tyson, with Michael Barrymore as the referee. Now that's real pantomime.

Golding goes to Paris but not Roland Garros

How refreshing it is to see an articulate and personable athlete like Julian Golding back on the blocks - and winning from them. The 28-year-old Londoner, who has made a remarkable comeback after four despairing years of injuries, goes to the World Championships in Paris after his 200 metres triumph in the trials at Birmingham. Yet in different circumstances he might have been making a name for himself in another sporting arena. At one time Golding was emerging as a formidable tennis prodigy, a county player who reached the London finals 10 years ago. "It was a toss-up then between athletics and tennis," he says. "I haven't had a racket in my hand for a couple of years now, but I often wonder whether I might have made it to Wimbledon." Paris will have its compensations, and for this Golding thanks his friend Roger Black. "He told me that the last thing you lose is your talent. It is always there if you want it to be." So maybe we'll see him on Centre Court yet.

Brothely love keeps Athens on right route

You always know when Olympic Games are almost upon us. Two stories appear with monotonous regularity in the public prints. One is that preparations are so far behind schedule that the Games may never happen, the second is that prostitutes are preparing to invade the host city. As with every Olympics, Athens is now enduring a surfeit of both, but at least they are dealing with the latter in their own inimitable way. The mayor of Athens, Dora Bakoyianni, is increasing the number of licensed brothels from 200 to 230, although presumably this doesn't include the ancient "Temple of Love" excavated when they started digging the foundations for the equestrian site. Now that really would have been a turn-on for the randier members of the IOC.

It isn't often that a member of the Royal Family has a kind word for a sponsor, so imagine how surprised Central Council of Physical Recreation (CCPR) members were when their president, Prince Philip, put in a plug for Kingsmill Bread at their recent annual meeting.

He even asked representatives of Allied Bakeries to take a bow as he praised a new scheme called Kit for Clubs, whereby members can use their loaf to collect tokens for equipment. He stopped short of saying it was the best thing since sliced bread, but you got the drift. What next for HRH now that he has gone commercial? A Nike baseball cap worn back to front as he roars around the carriage-racing circuit? Prince Philip is 82, in his 52nd year as CCPR president, and says it is time to scout around for a successor. He may not have to look far. His daughter, Anne, is president of the British Olympic Association, and getting her to double up would neatly bring closer the "strategic alliance" the two bodies are seeking.

The late Bob Hope always insisted self-effacingly that his short-lived and somewhat inauspicious professional boxing career was a bit of a joke.

After emigrating from Kent to the United States he fought half-a-dozen paid contests as a teenager under the nom-de-ring Packy East, though he said later he was better known as Rembrandt Hope ("I was on the canvas so much"). He also reckoned his fighting days were curtailed because of hand injuries: "The referee kept stepping on them." Funnily enough, the comic was not a great fight fan, and was never seen ringside in Las Vegas, unlike contemporaries such as Frank Sinatra. The nearest he ever came again to the fight game was a reputation for being tight-fisted.

insidelines@independent.co.uk

Exit Lines

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