Harrison’s wake-up call

By Clive Bernath: If Olympic super-heavyweight champion Audley Harrison (left) learned anything from Saturday’s six round points win against tough Scottish journeyman Derek McCafferty, it was that there needs to be considerable improvement in terms of both fitness and regular activity.
Harrison, who celebrates his 30th birthday next month, beat the game Kettering-based Scot easily enough and at times looked world class in putting together some incredibly fast right and left uppercuts to stun McCafferty.

But there were also some serious flaws in the Londoner’s performance that must be corrected before he steps in the ring again, probably in Scotland on October 20. Harrison boxed both conservatively and intelligently in the first round, using his superior reach to control the action and wade in and out with stunning accuracy.

But as early as the third round Harrison began to fade and worse still completely abandoned his game plan, set out by his corner and got drawn into a close-in slugfest, that suited the tough but limited Scot down to the ground.

It is common knowledge to everyone that will listen that Audley is in charge of his ‘Own destiny’. It is to his credit that he has managed to keep complete control of his career both inside the ring and outside. But now he knows what the boxing game is all about and it is time to knuckle down, fight regularly and get back in the gym as soon as possible. That means today.

The days of globetrotting the world and making countless public appearances must now stop and serious work must now take preference. The giant 6ft 6inch fighter said he was satisfied with his performance. With the result yes but the performance definitely not.

Yes McCafferty had been in with some good quality men and the clear points win inflicted by Harrison indicates he handled his foe easily. In reality, though, as much as Harrison looked superb in bursts, he looked as bad in equal measures. It had nothing to do with his lack of ability, he has it in abundance, the Olympic Gold proved that.

No the problem is his conditioning and lack of focus that he talks about so readily, it was very poor. And it will continue to until he finally accepts that he cannot mix concentrating on his business interests and train properly to prepare for fights.

Saturday’s performance should be viewed as a wakeup call. The debut against Middleton in May was an event, a coming out party but McCafferty was the real thing and whether Harrison admits it in public or not, he knows that deep down that performance was not good enough.

Former WBO middleweight and WBC super-middleweight champion Nigel Benn, who was a studio guest for the BBC, who screened the fight live was refreshingly honest with his opinions which seemed spot on. Benn, one of Britain’s most exciting fighters ever said that “He needs to fight more, time is not on his side and he must listen to his trainers. He is his own boss but that’s no good the trainer must be the governor.”

Benn was not the only one that was not impressed with Harrison’s performance. Just four months ago, he had the 6,500 sell out Wembley crowd eating out of his hand but the boos echoing around the surprisingly low 2,000 turnout at the Telewest Arena, prove drastic action needs to be taken.

Under the exclusive contract Harrison has with the BBC, he has eight fights left between now and December 2002. Quite simply if the wakeup call is not heeded very soon it is very unlikely that Britain’s finest heavyweight talent since Lennox Lewis will remain unbeaten for the duration of that contract, let alone become world champion.
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