Harrison finally hits the Sprott: Injured Audley keeps his career alive
By Jeff Powell Last updated at 2:22 AM on 10th April 2010
Audley Harrison dragged redemption from the brink of retirement by dredging up the courage which has lain dormant through most of his professional career.
That's right, courage. He showed bravery of such a high and unexpected order that he finally backed his claims to a world title challenge which he has craved since winning gold for Britain at the Sydney Olympics a decade ago.
Stand and deliver: Audley Harrison was on the back foot for most of the fight until his last round KO of Michael Sprott
Harrison, the A-force man whose fighting heart has been questioned so often, fought with one arm as good as tied behind his back before inflicting the last-round knock-out of Michael Sprott which made him champion of Europe.
An emotional Harrison said: 'I ripped a tendon in the shoulder when throwing a jab. It's an old injury. I knew I needed a knock-out going into the last round because I was behind on points. But I always felt I could find the big shot. I would like to ask Michael if I still haven't got any heart.'
For most of the 11 rounds before the knock-out, Harrison had taken a firestorm of punishment while clinging to the hope of landing one blow with the only weapon remaining in his armoury. That left hook arrived with one minute and 55 seconds of his ordeal remaining.
Huge hit: Michael Sprott lays on the floor after being knocked out by Audley Harrison
Referee Dave Parris did not finish the count. Instead he summoned urgent attention for Sprott, who revived, only to be taken unwell in the dressing room to which the paramedics hurried again. He spent the night under observation in hospital.
Harrison's finding of himself as a true fighting man came with the clock apparently running down on his career. We watched with surprise as well as a kind of morbid fascination as he fought more heroically with one hand than he has ever done with two.
As Harrison's arm fell more limp, he resorted to switching from his southpaw lead to not only jabbing with his left but trying virtually every punch with that one hand.
Back in business: Audley Harrison with EBU heavyweight title
Inevitably, Sprott pounded away to build up a winning lead on the scorecards. One of the three judges had Harrison's fellow Londoner six points ahead before the last round.
At times Harrison reeled around the Alexandra Palace ring but, with oblivion beckoning, he found the nerve to take the hard knocks. Sprott's corner made the crucial error of sending their man out to try to finish Harrison in the 12th. Had he boxed those last minutes with caution he would have beaten Harrison for the second time. Instead he was caught by a thunderous left hook.
Harrison's swollen features confirmed the extent of his discomfort but by coming through the hurt he is within one fight of a challenge for Vitali Klitschko's WBC title.
First he must deal with the mandatory contender for the European belt, another giant Ukrainian named Alexander Dimitrenko.
promoter Barry Hearn said: 'After this - one of the most fantastic
things I've seen in the ring - I believe Audley only has to win that to
get his wish against Klitschko before the end of the year.'
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