Boxing: Harrison's win swift but empty

Steve Bunce
Saturday 18 January 2014 05:16
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It was business as usual in Liverpool last night when Audley Harrison appeared from behind a smokescreen for yet another one of his now predictable mismatches.

It took Harrison just three punches and one round and 43 seconds to leave Alabama's leading heavyweight Wade Lewis on the floor for good.

It was Harrison's seventh win and his supporters will argue that it was a sensational finish, but the brutal reality of last night's latest outing by the Olympic gold medallist is that Lewis was clueless and paid the price. And it was a painful price.

Much has been said about Harrison's reluctance to acknowledge that there are problems with the way the expected glittering career is progressing. Exactly two years ago he won that Olympic gold medal in Sydney and wowed the nation with his poetry and sound-bites but in his six professional fights before last night his public had not been swept along and his viewing figures on the BBC had declined sharply.

Last night Harrison was booed when he finally appeared after a false start, but as soon as his punches started to dissect the hopeless case that was Lewis the crowd of about 1,300 firmly got behind him.

Harrison should be a national hero, he should be adored and he should be fighting in venues much bigger than the splendidly decadent Olympia.

The punches that did send Lewis down were textbook perfect and were delivered expertly, but it is doubtful if Harrison would have connected with any of them had Lewis been familiar with any of even boxing's most rudimentary gifts. Lewis, like so many American heavyweights, entered the ring with just one credential and that was his availability for a savaging, but he was brave until the very end.

There is a particular look on Harrison's face whenever he enters the ring and it is hard to work out exactly what it is because he appears halfway between anger and happiness. It is odd, but last night he most definitely was determined to shut up some of his many critics by showing his angry side.

It is possible that when the performance is fully analysed and Harrison has made his regulation comments about the credibility of Lewis as an opponent that the Olympic champion will actually receive no credit, and that would be unfair.

Harrison had absolutely nothing to beat and that is why he was not hit with a single punch and dropped Lewis three times to force a stoppage before the end of the second round. In short it was a good performance but against an awful opponent.

In the past Harrison has often gone to sleep during the middle of fights but last night he was determined to get Lewis out of the ring quickly. There are definite signs that the criticism is starting to get to him, and that can be a bad thing for a fighter who has aspirations to become the new people's champion.

Harrison will be 31 later this month, but he is still fighting six-round fights and it is looking an increasingly difficult task to move him up to eight rounds. His professional career started in May 2001, and the original plan must have been for him to be involved in eight or even 10-round fights by now.

When it was finally over, Harrison as expected, insisted it had been a good performance. He said: "I did exactly what I said I would do and I did it well. It is funny but each time I beat a man people say that all I have done is beat a bum, but that is not fair and true boxing fans know that.''

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