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Page last updated at 12:32 GMT, Saturday, 3 October 2009 13:32 UK

What next for Audley Harrison?

Audley Harrison and Coleman Barrett
Harrison knocked out Barrett in the second round of Friday's final of the Prizefighter series

By Nabil Hassan
BBC Sport at the ExCel Arena, London

The irony of the music Audley Harrison chose for his entrance at Friday's thrilling Prizefighter series was not lost on anybody…Bob Marley's Redemption Song.

The all-action, three-fight, three-round straight knockout tournament was probably his last chance at winning over critics, sceptics and doubters of his future in the sport following four defeats in his last eight fights.

The 2000 Olympic gold medallist entered London's ExCel Arena for his opening quarter-final fight against little known Scott Belshaw to a chorus of boos, something that has been a feature of his chequered professional career.

And while the reception was slightly more forgiving for the Londoner after disposing of Belshaw, then Danny Hughes and finally Coleman Barrett to claim victory in the latest Prizefighter series, his doubters remain.

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Harrison, 37, is convinced he can still become a world champion after Friday's success, but while he may be getting carried away, no-one else is.

Harrison has gone from being Britain's charismatic star of the Sydney Olympics to a figure of fun in less than a decade. In truth, the transformation took barely half that time.

Defeat by Williams in 2005 sparked the beginning of his fall from grace and subsequent losses to American Dominick Guinn, fellow Brit Michael Sprott and Belfast cabbie Rogan further sullied his reputation.

The vitriol towards him became so bad that Harrison was forced to up sticks and relocate to the United States.

"My critics are always going to be there and the battering I suffer out of the ring is why I live in America," said Harrison.

"It's an unwarranted battering but I'm not going to cry about it. My left hand was firing on Friday and I had three good victories.

"All roads lead to a world title so I want to do whatever gets me to a world title the quickest way possible."

The quickest way possible would have to see him swallow his pride and seek professional management rather than insisting on self promotion.

And that could come in the form of Prizefighter promoter Barry Hearn, who told BBC Sport after Friday's victory that he is trying to arrange a deal with Harrison.

"Would I work with Audley again? Yes," said Hearn.

"We will sit down in the next week and try and get something down on paper. I think it could work.

"He's an enigma and even at the age of 37 I don't think we've seen the best of him. Do I think he can be a world champion? Yes."

But before anyone gets carried away, and I doubt there are many apart from Team Harrison that are, a reality check is needed.

Yes, Harrison won Friday's Prizefighter event and rightly told BBC Sport when asked about the quality of opponent that all he can do is "beat the men put in front of me".

But how would he fare against Ukrainian duo Vitali or Wladimir Klitschko? What would happen against Britain's David Haye or Russian Nikolay Valuev? Could he even compete against Tyson Fury or John McDermott?

He's an enigma and even at the age of 37 I don't think we've seen the best of him. Do I think he can be a world champion? Yes

Barry Hearn

The reality is Harrison beat three men who until Friday had 27 fights and 10 knockouts between them.

The calibre of opponent was nowhere near world title level. In truth, it was not even close.

His first opponent - Belshaw - appeared to be a blown-up cruiserweight who looked uncomfortable in the ring against Harrison, while Hughes caught the 37-year-old with far too much ease.

Barrett, the best of the lot and a worthy finalist after fine victories over Scott Gammer and Carl Baker, troubled Harrison with worrying regularity before getting caught with a sweet left.

Harrison's stamina looked in question and over just three rounds that is a concern, but most worryingly of all is his lack of trust in his ability to take a punch.

His style is still languid, laboured, uninspiring and did little to win over the sceptics and looked well short of being considered world class.

At this stage in his career Harrison is well aware that it will be near impossible to convince the doubters of his ability. And he almost seems to thrive on playing the pantomime villain.

He showed on Friday that there is still life in him yet and future big domestic fights could still come his way...something that cannot be said of former British champion Danny Williams

Danny Williams
Danny Williams said before the event that he would retire if defeated

Williams was sent to the canvas twice in the opening round on the way to a humiliating first fight, quarter-final, loss to Sheffield's Baker.

Defeat saw the 36-year-old relinquish his British title and left his career in tatters.

Williams has had many highs in his 50-fight career - beating Mike Tyson in 2004 will always be the highlight - but the Brixton bomber will now surely hang up his gloves.

But while Williams' career looks over, Harrison hopes that his has been reborn.

"The place was sold out and I've seen loads of coverage in the papers so there's still interest in Audley Harrison," he said.

"After those three performances, there's still hope for me and hope for Britain to have a world champion."

Harrison is at least correct in the last part of that statement - next month Haye fights Valuev for the WBA title and, on Friday's evidence, he is Britain's best hope.



see also
Harrison wins Prizefighter title
03 Oct 09 |  Boxing
Gammer takes heart despite loss
03 Oct 09 |  Boxing
Audley's final shot at redemption
29 Sep 09 |  Boxing
Gammer primed for prize mission
02 Oct 09 |  Boxing
Harrison signs for Prizefighter
27 Aug 09 |  Boxing
Moore and Williams defend titles
02 May 09 |  Boxing
Schedule/results 2009
28 Dec 09 |  Results & Schedule


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