Boxing: Haye wants Harrison at his best

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The Independent Online

David Haye hopes heavy underdog Audley Harrison is at his enigmatic best on Saturday in order to give the paying public "more than a minute's worth of entertainment".

Harrison challenges huge favourite Haye for the WBA heavyweight in Manchester, with his world title credentials widely questioned following nearly 10 years of under-achievement.

The 2000 Olympic champion has shown only flashes of the heart and ability which won him a gold medal in Sydney since turning professional. However, a dramatic come-from-behind knockout of Michael Sprott to win the European title earlier this year catapulted him into the world title picture and earned him a lucrative all-British clash with former cruiserweight champion Haye.

And the champion, formerly friends with fellow Londoner Harrison, hopes the fighter who beat Sprott and Danny Williams turns up rather than the man who capitulated against the likes of Martin Rogan and Dominick Guinn.

Haye told Press Association Sport: "I'm preparing for the best Audley Harrison and I want the best Audley Harrison to turn up.

"I really do, for the viewers, the paying public, the people watching on Sky 3D - I know people who have actually bought 3D televisions specifically to watch this fight. "I want to give them more than a minute's worth of entertainment.

"I want Audley to come out and give me some problems and some puzzles to solve so I can go out there and give people some entertainment."

Harrison's high profile, stemming from both his Olympic glory and his professional failure, was the factor which effectively made the fight happen.

Haye has been delighted by the public interest in the fight, which is a mandatory defence of his title.

"I knew once it caught the public's imagination how big it would go, with a snowball effect," said the champion.

"Looking at the column inches we've got, even way before the fight this week it's been back page news in certain newspapers.

"That shows the magnitude of it. How often do you get a boxing match on the backpages other than right after the event? It happens very rarely.

"I'm really happy that this fight's caught people's imaginations because that's what you want in boxing. I'm in boxing to create a legacy and in Britain people will remember this fight for years to come."

Harrison has never publicly doubted his ability to win world honours and after weeks of typical back-and-forth sniping, believes the British people may finally be warming to him.

"I think there's definitely been a swing in public support because my story has resonated with people," the veteran told Press Association Sport.

"It's a story of hope, triumph over adversity, never giving up, and people are starting to see 'this guy has been beaten down, never given up and now he gets an opportunity, he gets his moment'.

"These are the moments when I get up.

"I relish being the underdog. I relish these big occasions, these moments in time when it's all on the line. There's no November 14. This is the title shot, you have to go for it. Just like the Olympics, the European title shot, the Prizefighter tournament. I like these kind of scenarios."

He added: "I'm just looking forward to it. It's going to be a tough fight because he's the champion and he doesn't want to give up his belt. I'm the challenger and I want the belt.

"It's going to be tough but ultimately I'm going to prevail."