Boxing: Price proves his quality as he calls time on Harrison

 

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The Independent Online

Audley Harrison duly exited from what he admitted was his Last Chance Saloon following a barrage of punches from the British heavyweight champion David Price that would have knocked him clean through the swing doors. Once again, the former Olympic champion not only failed to deliver but this time the curtain was brought down on a career of frustrating under-achievement at Liverpool's Echo Arena last night.

Harrison, a few days short of his 41st birthday, came and went in just 82 seconds, flattened by the big Liverpudlian in even quicker time than David Haye took to dispatch him in their world title fight two years ago. While Audley's end was not unexpected it must be said that Price, in only his 14th fight, gave a superb exhibition of devastating power punching, leaving Harrison battered before he could land a single punch. Harrison may never have been a world-class fighter but this was a world-class performance from Price, who rightly said, "That finish would have knocked out anyone in the world. The performance spoke for itself." Indeed it did.

The Scouser is a man of quiet menace, still young for a heavyweight but decidedly from the old school of pugilism. He said he would set the pace from the start and would be determined to KO Harrison. This he did spectacularly with a series of seriously spiteful punches, beginning with a left hook that almost sent Harrison's gum shield spinning.

A reeling Harrison was no match for such a relentless finisher, Price belabouring him repeatedly, landing several crunching blows which caused referee Howard Foster to haul him off as Harrison, out on his feet, slumped to the floor. He was there receiving treatment for several minutes, then sat disconsolately on his stool before being led wordless from the ring, surely for the last time.

It was the most devastating defeat Harrison had suffered since turning professional and pocketing £1m after winning super-heavyweight gold in Sydney 12 years ago.

His British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles intact, Price can surely look forward to bigger things and on this form, even allowing for Harrison's inadequacy, he is surely the best bet to eventually interrupt the dual reign of the Klitschko brothers. "I would have to weigh up the situation if a Klitschko offer came, but as long as the financial terms were decent, I would have nothing to lose. Tonight not enough happened in the fight for people to see the best of me but I have felt all week that I was going to give someone a hiding. I honestly believe I am going all the way to the top."

His manager, Frank Maloney thinks Price is potentially Britain's best heavyweight since Lennox Lewis. "I saw David in the dressing room and he was knocking holes in the wall, so desperate is he to show that Britain has a future heavyweight champion of the world."

Price is likely to be in action again before Christmas and Maloney has a £500,000 offer on the table for him to meet Britain's other undefeated heavyweight, Tyson Fury. One doubts it will be accepted.

As for Audley, well, the previous time we saw him on TV here was in Strictly Come Dancing. Last night he did not even get started for the last waltz. "If I get beaten by Price, the party's over," he had said. As the song goes, time to call it a day.

Former Olympic champion James DeGale had a far more arduous night than fellow Beijing medallist Price when drawn into exactly the sort of fight he did not want when making his Channel Five TV debut with a successful second defence of his European super-middleweight title at Bluewater's Glow Arena in Kent.

Challenger Hadillah Mohoumadi, the 32-year-old French champion, proved a tough, resilient and aggressive opponent in a pulsating 12-round contest which DeGale won on a unanimous decision, the judges marking it 119-109, 117-111 and 116-112 though the two Italians and a Dane seeming a tad generous.

Though always throwing the better quality punches, DeGale was constantly forced on to the back foot and made to box off the ropes, not a comfortable situation. He shipped quite a few shots in the process but was the classier of the two, although as he admitted, after more contractual arguments outside the ring than in it recently, there is still more work to do in the gym. "My word, he was tough," he said. "He just kept coming. But that was a good learning 12 rounds and I had to dig deep."

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