Boxing: Farewell to Audley Harrison, a fighter who lacked a brutality gene


Audley Harrison was retired a long time ago, not by his own agency but that of others raining punches. Harrison was a boxer who was distinctly uncomfortable in the upper echelons of the paid ranks. This makes him a failure on his own terms, for it was he who spoke about destiny and world titles, but not in the wider sense of a man turning his life around through sport and achieving what none could for 32 years in a British boxing vest: claiming Olympic gold.

That it did not develop into a world heavyweight crown dented the 41-year-old Harrison's pride but not necessarily his contribution to the gaiety of British sporting life. He did not lack courage. No fighter who crosses the ropes ever does. He simply lacked an instinct for the game he excelled at as an amateur.

Any who confuses the amateur and professional codes should make a case study of Harrison's career. In the heavily regulated environment of amateur boxing, where participants contest bouts of only three rounds in protective gear, Harrison was spared prolonged exposure to the more visceral elements of the game.

He was a technical fighter who used his reach to great effect in amateur combat. The risks were simply not as great as those to which he was exposed when the money poured in. Harrison prospered to a degree in the Prizefighter setting of foreshortened, three-round bouts against modest, often domestic opposition.

He entered this ring knowing there would be no prolonged assault on his senses. He could cope with that, but not the brutal exposure to heavyweight muscle and murderous intent higher up the food chain.

At 6ft 6in and 18st, Harrison was an impressive lump. He had quick hands, a great jab and serious power. Somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind there is probably an explanation accounting for his failure to detonate his skilled bulk. Maybe he was just too well-adjusted as a human being to care enough about beating another member of the species to a bloody pulp? Perhaps his aversion to risk was just too great.

These are fine attributes in civilian life but of little value in a boxing ring when the other bloke is trying to take your head off. Harrison can take to his grave that golden evening in Sydney, where he danced to Olympic glory, winning super-heavyweight gold and the praise of the watching Evander Holyfield. He sang a lovely ditty of his own composing afterwards in a sweet voice and then convinced the BBC to chuck a million quid his way. It is a pity Harrison, immensely likeable and generous of spirit, attracted so much negative commentary as a pro. It might have been different had he set out with more humility and less hubris. He knows now what he failed to recognise then, that talent alone is not enough to conquer the world.

For that you need hunger, desire, a ruthless streak and sometimes anger – qualities he had too little of in the post-Sydney years. His journey was done then.


Audley or Fraudley? Tales of the tape

* Audley Harrison became the first British boxer to win Olympic gold in the super-heavyweight division at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

* He signed a £1m contract with the BBC for his first 10 professional fights, and was unbeaten in his first 19 before defeat in 2005 by fellow Briton Danny Williams.

* He beat Michael Sprott in 2010 to win European heavyweight crown. But his only shot at a world title, in 2010, was against David Haye for the WBA belt. He was knocked out in the third round.

Fights: 38; Won 31; KOs 23; Lost 7.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'