By Terence Dooley
Audley Harrison is once again coming off a poor performance, or non-performance, after losing to American's Deontay Wilder, 28-0 (28), in a single round at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena on Saturday night. As usual, the big southpaw said all the right things pre-fight, but the bout itself lasted just over a minute. The fans in attendance booed him when “A-Force” walked to the ring, as it was announced and when he was in distress, the same fans who trot out the old clichés: ‘I respect every man who gets into the ring’, ‘It is a life and death sport’, when a fighter gets injured or dies. Truth be told, he was not good enough on the night and was knocked out by the younger man and better fighter. The LA-based Londoner now faces retirement and decades of looking back on a professional career that failed to reach the heights of his amateur career.
The onslaughts continued after the fight, Audley hadn’t hurt anyone, and that’s the problem. It was another fight in which he had failed to fire and protests over the “premature” stoppage, plus his argument that he had taken a knee and was officially down when Wilder threw the last few — he didn’t and wasn’t — further fuelled the ire of the people who think he is a disgrace to the sport.
Harrison, though, did not and had not earned one post-fight barb levelled at him by Richard Keys, who led BoxNation’s coverage of the fight and accused Harrison, now 31-7 (23), of “bringing the sport into disrepute”. David Price, the man who wiped Harrison out in a round last October, leapt to his former victim’s defence, and defended him well, yet Keys was insistent in his denunciation of the 2000 Olympic gold medallist.
Now, Keys is relatively new to the sport but, as an experienced journalist and broadcaster, you would expect a dose of perspective. “Bringing the sport into disrepute” is a real charge, levied by the BBBoC, or relevant body, as the result of an extreme offence and is a charge of misconduct. Now, the Board can rescind part of a boxer’s purse if they feel he has not made enough of an effort or has frozen, but this course of action is hard to take as it is difficult to definitively prove that a fighter did not make an effort, as opposed to being out-matched and out-gunned.
In 1991 John Morris, the BBBoC’s secretary, confirmed that Chris Eubank was facing the charge of disrepute for head butting Dan Sherry during their WBO middleweight title fight. Eubank was given a reprimand and £10,000 fine. Mark Kaylor and Errol Christie were hit with the charge, and fines of £15,000 and £5000 respectively, for their pre-fight press conference brawl in 1985, ‘bringing the sport into disrepute’ was the official charge. Eubank was handed another charge in August 1995 for comments about Steve Collins’s decision to employ a hypnotist ahead of their first fight and the implied consequences if he did this ahead of the rematch; “Simply The Best” was hit with a £5000 that time and went on to lose the return. Oliver McCall, in the dock on the same charge for claiming he would hurt Frank Bruno during their 1995 WBC heavyweight world title fight to exact revenge for the injuries sustained by Gerald McClellan, was cleared due to “misrepresentation” of the original quotes by the national press. McCall argued that he had been referring to scoring a KO, rather than permanently injuring Bruno, and moved forward with the fight.
Adrian Dodson was charged, fined and hit with an 18-month ban for his bite on Alain Bonnamie in 1999. In recent times, Scott Harrison was brought before the Board for failing to make weight for his 2006 fight with Nicky Cook, forcing him to cancel a WBO title defence for the second time. It is not just the fighters, either, as Mickey Vann was given 14 charges for remarks in his autobiography. Throw in the Board’s decision to level the charge at Dereck Chisora for his press conference brawl with David Haye last year and you have a clear picture of what “bringing the sport into disrepute” entails, and why Harrison, despite the disappointing performance on Saturday night, doesn’t deserve to be hit with Board Regulation 25 (Misconduct).
Harrison may be many things yet the only crime thing he should be convicted of is continuing to live in denial over how far he can go in the sport. Harrison’s dared to dream, and dream, and dream, and he should retire for the same reason many fighters retire — because he’s no longer good enough to complete at the level he wants to compete at. He didn’t deserve the full length and scope of Keys’s verbal assault and, for the reasons of accuracy, has a long way, and some major infringements, to go before he drags the sport into disrepute.
For all his flaws, there has also been some good in the career of Harrison — shining a light on, and bringing extra funding to, amateur boxing chief amongst them — and those who want to insult and abuse him should bear in mind that, more than once, he has had to be publicly reminded that he isn’t the fighter he wants to be. That’s got to hurt him even more than the KOs, so we should lay off the 41-year-old for a while, or at least be a little bit more realistic in our appraisal of Saturday night’s performance.
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