TV rivals compete in race for Harrison's signature

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The Independent Online

The undignified and desperate struggle to sign Audley Harrison intensified yesterday when the British boxer and his solicitor attended a meeting at Sky television, while at the same time a group at the BBC discussed the boxer's career in his absence.

The undignified and desperate struggle to sign Audley Harrison intensified yesterday when the British boxer and his solicitor attended a meeting at Sky television, while at the same time a group at the BBC discussed the boxer's career in his absence.

Harrison, the Olympic gold medallist, was in Las Vegas last week, when he worked as an analyst for Sky Sports during Lennox Lewis's title defence against David Tua. The BBC intends extending its limited boxing coverage, but will only do so if several notable fighters can be secured for a 12-month period.

During the past 10 months representatives of Lewis and Naseem Hamed have approached the BBC. In the summer a deal with Lewis was agreed in principle and Sky had to renegotiate with the world heavyweight champion's management. The BBC has compiled a list of fighters and it was that list, and not just Harrison, which was discussed at yesterday's meeting of BBC's new boxing task force.

Jess Harding, the London promoter who provides Grandstand with delayed action shows, would, in theory, be a contender to promote Harrison's debut. However, last night another leading promoter was due to meet with members of the inner BBC circle after news of Harrison's visit to Sky emerged.

ITV's boxing coverage ended in 1995 when Frank Warren left along with Hamed, Frank Bruno and Nigel Benn. One of the main reasons for his departure was ITV's decision not to resurrect a midweek fight night, something the BBC is now considering. Eight of the year's 1995 top ten most-watched sports events were boxing fights, headed by Benn against Gerald McClellan, with nearly 18 million viewers.

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