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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 December 2006, 20:23 GMT
Heavyweight encounter

By Richard Hookham

If Danny Williams and Audley Harrison could be judged on the quality of their catchphrase exchanges, then both would be undisputed world champions by now.

Audley Harrison
Harrison was in typically eloquent mood at the news conference
Revenge mission. Redemption. Last-chance saloon.

Such standard-issue boxing parlance was being thrown out like a flurry of Marvin Hagler uppercuts as the two British heavyweights talked up Saturday's re-match.

Williams won their first dire meeting 12 months ago, but the boos echoing around the ExCel Arena were proof enough that it was one of the biggest anti-climaxes in recent domestic boxing.

A year on and both admit they are at the crossroads of similarly inconsistent careers.

But for whom is this fight more important?

Williams, who has taken the fight with just a week's notice, insists he is looking no further than Saturday but he must be harbouring hopes of another world title shot if he can take Harrison's scalp again.

I'm much, much fitter than last year - it'll be different this time

Danny Williams

His finest hour came with his victory over a fading Mike Tyson in 2004, before he made a brave but unsuccessful assault on former champion Vitali Klitschko's WBC crown.

Since then, he has been consigned to fighting his way back up the rankings on home soil, but the inability to raise himself for these less glamorous matches has cost him dearly.

He weighed in at 19st 4lb for their last fight and a whopping 20st 5lb when he lost to former British champion Matt Skelton, the man originally scheduled to face Harrison on Saturday.

"I'm much, much fitter than last year - it'll be different this time," Williams promised.

To prove he means business, the Brixton bomber has even severed links with his former coach Jim McDonnell and asked old training partner Spencer Fearon to get him into some sort of condition.

"I don't want to talk too much about Jim, but I just felt I needed a change and a new approach," Williams said.

"After the Skelton fight I had to change my diet and everything about myself.

"I don't want to talk about what's next, the main thing is I win on Saturday and then see what happens.

"I had a feeling one of them would pull out of the fight and I let (promoter) Frank Warren know I would be ready to step in."

Danny Williams
Williams insists he is better prepared than against Skelton in July

But if this is Williams' route back to the top, for fellow Londoner Harrison it really is the moment of truth.

Since winning the 2000 Olympic super-heavyweight gold medal in Sydney, Harrison's professional career has been little more than a damp squib.

He was heralded as the next great hope, the man to follow in the footsteps of Britain's former world champion Lennox Lewis.

But all too often he has failed to deliver and he admits many in the business have lost faith in him.

He followed up last year's defeat to Williams with a dismal defeat to Dominick Guinn in America in April and his career looked to be on a downward slide.

Time for more classic boxing speak: "Spiritually, emotionally and mentally last year I wasn't in the right place," Harrison said.

"Against Williams and Guinn, you might as well say I gave the fights away.

"I went through a little stage of beating myself up but I'm a bigger man than that. This time I'll be turning up and I'm ready for Saturday.

"It isn't how you win - I've won many times - it's how you lose and come back. I'm still here."

So much at stake

Harrison's trainer, Thel Torrence, insists he has seen a new-look fighter at the Big Bear training base in California.

He added: "Audley's work has motivated me. He's been working so hard and I think we've got him in great shape."

Both fighters refused to discuss the implications of losing Saturday's showdown.

But with so much at stake in their respective careers, the men who produced such a turkey last December could be poised to pull out a real cracker come Saturday.



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