Olympic Moments No 7: Audley Harrison's boxing gold

In our series celebrating GB success, coach Tony Burns recalls a stunning win in 2000

I remember walking around the Olympic park, trying to call my wife, after Audley Harrison won the super-heavyweight boxing gold medal in Sydney in 2000. I was his coach. I was trying for about 30 minutes but mobiles weren't working anywhere near the site. Then, out of nowhere, someone asked: "Are you Tony Burns? Everyone's waiting for you in the press conference." Audley had refused to answer questions until I arrived. Despite all our problems, that was a proper mark of respect.

I met Audley three years before his Olympic final, which he won by beating Mukhtarkhan Dildabekov of Kazakhstan on points. He came to my gym, Reptons, in Bethnal Green, because he wanted to go to the Olympics. I took my first fighters to the Olympics in Mexico in 1968 so I knew what I was doing. But we had to get Audley into our way of working first.

The first time I saw him I thought he was a talent. I couldn't look at him and say he was a "fighter" but he was a talent and it's something he was born with. He knew how to box. As soon as he'd step into the ring he'd have the measure of the man he was against and he'd know how to beat him. I'm convinced he could have beaten anyone, including Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko. But there was something about Audley that meant he wouldn't. It was something in his head.

Maybe it was because he was so good: he'd sometimes just do the bare minimum to win. He had amazing hand speed – some of the best I've seen in a man his size – but he'd jab away and scrape through rounds by doing just enough. I remember one fight where I walked away from his corner because I was so disgusted with him. With the talent he had he should have been knocking fighters out all the time.

We had a number of arguments when he was training for the Olympics. We do things "our" way at the gym and he didn't always agree. He fell out with David Robinson, who has been chairman for the past 23 years, and I remember telling him to sling his hook a few times. But then, a few days would pass and he'd stick his head round the corner and ask me for a bit of advice. It's not a bad thing to argue.

One time he really showed his quality was a couple of years before the Olympics, at the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia. He was fighting Michael Macaque, from Mauritius, in the final and he knocked him out cold. Just knocked him out. Audley was huge, 6ft 5in and about 17½st. When he jabbed someone, he hurt them. After this fight the BBC and other bodies were begging him to stay on as an amateur and compete in the Olympics. And I'm glad he did.

We went to the 2000 Games and Audley – being Audley – was confident. He was a brash, confident lad and while this put some people off he had a good reason for being like this. I thought he fought a good fight in that final and I was proud of him. Maybe he'll regret the things that have happened since. He wanted to be involved in everything when he should have been thinking about boxing. But he'll remember that Olympic gold. He was the first British super-heavyweight gold medal winner.

Oh, and the first person to get through to my mobile after that fight in Sydney? My old mate Reggie Kray.

Tony Burns is head coach at Repton Boxing club in Bethnal Green. The Club grew out of Repton Boys Club, established in 1884 by Repton School as a way of giving support to the young men in one of the country's poorest communities.

Olympics news you might have missed...

The Syrian Olympic committee head, General Mowaffak Joumaa, has denied reports he has been officially banned from attending next month's Games, dismissing media statements that Britain won't grant him a visa as a "fabricated media campaign".

In a statement issued by al-Baath newspaper, Joumaa said that if such a ban was issued, "it would be an honour for me as a Syrian citizen who loves his people and homeland". There are expected to be 10 Syrian athletes representing their country in London at the Games.

Who's up...

Ryan Lochte US swimmer won latest showdown with Michael Phelps, taking 400m individual medley at the US trials.

Who's down...

GB men's basketball team Suffered third successive warm-up loss, going down heavily 87-51 to Russia in San Antonio.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil