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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 October 2006, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Audley fronts up

By Simon Austin

Audley Harrison was captivating, flamboyant and confident at Tuesday's news conference to promote his upcoming fight against Matt Skelton.

In short, the former Olympic champion displayed all the qualities that have been so lacking in the ring since he turned professional six years ago.

A frustrated Harrison has failed to deliver since winning Olympic gold
A frustrated Harrison has failed to deliver since winning Olympic gold
Many boxing followers are already talking about the 34-year-old in the past tense.

Harrison was beaten on points by Danny Williams in December before losing a unanimous decision to little-known American Dominick Guinn in April.

The US-based Londoner returned to beat Andrew Greeley in Atlantic City in June, but the fight was ninth on a bill that was not even televised.

Yet despite his fall from grace, the Sydney gold medallist exuded belief and star quality as he sat alongside promoter Frank Warren and Skelton on Tuesday.

He bounded in wearing an electric blue double-breasted suit and huge grin before outlining how he could still become the heavyweight champion of the world.

"I lost the fight and my credibility against Williams," he admitted, "but that fight was not a reflection of me.

"Now I've got the chance to put it right. I'm a survivor and whatever happens to me in life, I'm going to bounce back.

"It's about my legacy and getting what I went into boxing for."

Harrison, who is 35 on 26 October, says he is a different man from the one who was beaten by Williams and Guinn.

He admits he had slipped into a "comfort zone" because of his wealth and celebrity lifestyle.

I've been to every premier, I've travelled the world, I've done that celebrity thing

Audley Harrison

"You get comfortable," said Harrison, who was paid 1m by the BBC for his first 10 fights. "You can't get up in the morning when you've got your silk pyjamas on.

"But I'm back, I'm hungry, I'm awake now. I think what was going on out of the ring was affecting me.

"I've been to every premier and every event there can be, I've travelled round the world, I've done that celebrity thing.

"People are still phoning me to go on this or that TV programme. But now I've got a different mentality."

Harrison also has a different trainer. He shipped out Thell Torrence because he was unhappy that the American continued to work with Hasim Rahman. Now he is working with Buddy McGirt in America.

"Being in the US, I can focus on boxing," said Harrison. "All I'm doing now is focussing on boxing and doing myself justice.

"For four years after the Sydney Olympics I was on (television) permanently and it burnt me out."

Harrison realises he is lucky to have the chance to fight Skelton for the Commonwealth title, but he still has his eyes on the ultimate prize in boxing.

"A win over Matt Skelton and a win over another creditable guy and I'm back," he said.

Audley Harrison and Matt Skelton
Harrison (left) says a win over Matt Skelton can re-ignite his career
"My philosophy is that if you don't succeed, then try again."

Skelton, who beat Williams on a unanimous points decision in July, is the polar opposite of Harrison.

In contrast to his rival's flamboyant outfit, the 39-year-old from Bedford wore a tracksuit and baseball cap for the news conference.

He also spoke in the understated manner that has characterised his progress through the British boxing ranks.

"When Audley won the Olympic title, he made rash statements, saying he was going to win a world title in x amount of time," said Skelton.

"Ultimately he didn't achieve that and the public are elephants, they never forget anything.

"He's been boxing six years and I've been boxing four years. Now we're level pegging."

They won't be after December's make-or-break fight.

Harrison insists hunger is back
03 Oct 06 |  Boxing
Williams defeats rival Harrison
10 Dec 05 |  Boxing

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