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Dave Amos 5th Apr 2010 - 16:43

Audley Harrison vs. Michael Sprott. European heavyweight title.

So once again we witness Audley Harrison rise from his very well-worn bar stool in the Last Chance Saloon to proclaim, once and for all, that he can mount a credible assault on the upper echelons of boxing's marquee division.

It's almost nine years since the six foot five, athletic, powerful Harrison made his professional debut, and he did so with the nation backing him and boxing pundits suggesting he was indeed the man who would succeed Lennox Lewis as Britain's premier heavyweight.

The Olympic gold medallist certainly looked the part, and had fantastic amateur credentials, but fast-forward to the present day and surely only in his worst nightmares could Harrison have envisaged where he is as a 38 year old about to step into his 31st contest.

A certain former cruiserweight by the name of David Haye, who entered a professional ring for the first time more than a year after Harrison did, is the undisputed number one at the weight in this country. No world titles have materialised, (indeed, win or lose, he's never been in a world title fight), and in his fights for the Commonwealth, English and European Union titles, he has been beaten; firstly by Danny Williams in a narrow points loss for the Commonwealth crown, and in his last title tilt for English and EU honours, he was unceremoniously sparked out by a name who may be back to haunt him, Michael Sprott.

In a stark contrast to Harrison (1/2 win), who has never been shy about getting his name, face and electric blue suits in the public eye, Sprott (6/4 win) has been the quiet man of the British heavyweight scene for some time.

Over time he's fought the best the UK has to offer, and in spite of his journeyman record of 32 wins (17 early) to match his 14 losses, he's faced some big names (future world champion Ruslan Chagaev and Corrie Sanders probably the pick) and won some of the bigger fights he's been in. The aforementioned demolition job he did on a well-fancied Harrison may be a highlight, but taking decisions against Timo Hoffmann, Rene Dettweiler, Cengiz Koc and Danny Williams show that whilst he's often brought into a fight as an opponent expected to lose, Sprott enters the fray looking for a lot more than his paycheque.

The aforementioned wins against Dettweiler and Koc were away wins in Germany against undefeated opposition, and to get the nod on the cards in such conditions showcases perfectly Sprott's commendable attitude to the sport. He will approach the Harrison fight with every intention of winning.

As ever with an Audley Harrison fight, we know exactly what sort of physical condition Harrison will be, and it will be excellent. A useful tool when considering a heavyweight's condition is to look at his weights throughout his career. Harrison debuted at 260 pounds but quickly shed around half a stone and has been there ever since. He may be nearly a decade older, but he came in at a sculpted 252 for his recent Prizefighter tournament win and clearly trains hard.

There has never been the drastic gain and loss seen in fellow fighters, and he is clearly not bringing more weight to fights than he needs. His chin, other than when Sprott threw an absolute wrecking ball at it, has held up fairly well, and his amateur pedigree stands him in excellent stead, with a ramrod jab and a tight guard. So just why has Harrison's career been such a let down? The answer, it would seem, is in his mind.

When Harrison was finally matched in a competitive domestic contest, against Danny Williams back in 2005, he looked confident in the build up. Williams had been badly beaten against Vitali Klitschko, and was seen as a man on the slide. Yet come fight night, something seemed to be troubling the undefeated 'A-Force,' and he fought a timid, sometimes seemingly frightened contest, afraid to let his hands go and ultimately losing on points in a fight that he could have won.

He did rematch Williams and did what he had promised a long time ago; dropping Williams and forcing a stoppage in a career best performance. Finally it looked like the real Harrison had arrived, and if he overcame the next hurdle, the promised land and a world title fight against the beatable Shannon Briggs loomed large. Cue Sprott's left hook.

The seeds of doubt have been sown, and for every Harrison win there are numerous reminders of shot-shy showings that have badly let him down in the past. He has the tools to beat Sprott, who himself is capable of turning in the odd lethargic performance.

His reward for beating Harrison was a crack at Matt Skelton, and that was simply an awful fight. I can see Harrison winning this fight based on no more than his boxing ability and staying out of the way of Sprott's potentially damaging shots. Harrison, despite winning Prizefighter, isn't quick out of the blocks and will be more cautious than ever against a man who can knock him out. I'm not expecting a thrilling fight, but I think there may be some value in a points win for Harrison.



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