Boxing: Price tells Olympic stars to use spending power

 

It is exactly eight weeks since Britain's weekend of glory in the Olympic boxing ring. Time enough for the fistful of fighters who departed the ExCeL with medals draped around their necks to cash them in for the brighter lights and supposedly bigger paydays awaiting them in the professional game. But so far none has put pen to contract, and maybe some never will.

A prime reason is that the amateur sport is fighting back against professional promoters by encour-aging Olympians – and others – to earn potential six-figure sums in the newly established pro-style global tournament (no headguards or vests and a 10-point scoring system) called the World Series of Boxing, in which Britain is poised to enter a franchise next month.

For London's male medallists, including the super-heavyweight Anthony Joshua, this offers a real temptation to at least linger awhile in amateur boxing, which is surely now a misnomer.

Moreover, the economic climate dictates there aren't the hefty upfront handouts from TV companies there were when Audley Harrison pocketed the BBC's £1 million cheque after Sydney 12 years ago and proceeded to try to fool all of the viewers all of the time.

By coincidence, "Fraudley" is back among us from his Californian base next Saturday night, challenging fellow former Olympic medallist David Price, who won bronze in Beijing, for his British heavyweight title at Liverpool's Echo Arena.

The same night also sees James DeGale, likewise the recipient of a seven-figure bursary – from then Sky-backed Frank Warren – after winning middleweight gold in 2008, making his Channel 5 debut under new management at Bluewater's Glow Arena, where he defends his European title against the French champion, Hadillah Mohoumadi.

All three ex-Olympians say they don't regret taking the professional shilling. "We did not have the option London's medallists now have," says Price, whose own signing-on fee was a fraction of Harrison's. "But I think they are still better off turning pro. The WSB is unproven, and why should they risk devaluing an Olympic medal for something that might not work out?"

Of all Britain's ex-Olympians, I like Price the most. After just 13 unbeaten fights the bright and muscular 6ft 8in Scouser looks Britain's best bet to end the Klitschko dynasty should they still be around when he is ready for a world title fight in around 18 months' time. Here is one heavyweight with more than hype and hope in his corner, including a genuinely concussive punch.

The likelihood is that Harrison, 41 in a fortnight, will feel its full force, as he did the Hayemaker's in that timid capitulation two years ago. But wisely, Price shuns complacency for a contest that has sufficient novelty value to attract a 6,000-plus crowd.

"Audley has taken a lot of stick and if people want to judge him on the Haye fight it's up to them," he says. "I'm not. His reflexes may not be what they were but the last thing any heavyweight loses is his punch. He is still dangerous."

Harrison did win the last of his 33 fights in May, though his opponent, Ali Adams, subsequently failed a drugs test. Price's own previous fight was at Aintree, so he knows about old nags falling at the first. The bookies make him odds-on favourite.

Harrison's fee is undisclosed for what most believe will be a walk-on, carried-off part. "I've probably overpaid him," admits the promoter, Frank Maloney. For boxing's sake, let's hope the Price is right.

Price v Harrison is live on BoxNation (Sky channel 437/Virgin channel 546). Join at www.boxnation.com

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