Editor’s Pick – Audley Harrison: ‘I was like superman in my thoughts. But I hit a wall and didn’t achieve what I needed’

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In an unique interview Terry Dooley heard in regards to the highs and the lows of Audley Harrison’s profession, the simple legacy he left behind and the hangover that continues to be

THE summer season of 2002 was a stunning time for me. I was ending a diploma in my favorite topic, Continental Philosophy, and Lennox Lewis had simply vindicated years of my help by annihilating Mike Tyson. The solely draw back was the truth that I knew Lewis was coming to the tip of his reign.

Luckily for us boxing addicts, fandom is untouchable, uncrushable and unrelenting, so there was hope in abundance as a new King was on the rise. Audley Harrison, 31-7 (23), had netted gold in the tremendous-heavyweight division on the 2000 Olympic Games and he had introduced boxing again to the BBC — and let’s not get this twisted, Auntie despises our sport. We had a new man, a new hope and it was all gravy.

I even purchased the t-shirt when buying an official A-Force shirt forward of his fourth-spherical KO win over Richel Hersisia for the not so famend WBF title in March 2004. In the tip, although, it wasn’t to be as Deontay Wilder ended Harrison’s profession in May 2013 after starching him in a single stanza. David Price had additionally completed him in one in October of the earlier yr. Harrison had gained Prizefighter: The International Heavyweights in-between these two fights to as soon as once more ignite the flame of certainty amongst his tribe.

True fandom by no means leaves you. It is in the blood. I nonetheless have that t-shirt. Every so typically, I put on it to fights and Tweet a picture to Harrison. I tag in John Evans, Martin Supple, Mark Butcher and boxing Twitter stalwart David Lee. To his everlasting credit score, Audley at all times throws us a retweet or a remark.

For a transient second the sensation of cynicism that boxing instils in you — or that’s already in you and drew you in the direction of the enterprise — rolls away and we’re again in the early-noughties. A bunch of boxing followers paying homage to their idol in the hope that our help nonetheless means one thing to him.

“That is why I’m doing this interview, my man,” Harrison instructed Boxing News when granting me a lockdown viewers. “It is great to see that people see the impact I had. I had people willing me on: the movement, ‘Yes we can’, and the ‘A-Force’. S**t, man, I’ve had the good, the bad and the ugly — I’ve had more ups and downs than a yoyo. The trials and tribulations, and people lived that with me. They wanted me to succeed. ”

Harrison’s legacy was cemented outdoors of the ring when he gained gold in 2000. The southpaw’s bolshie angle laid the foundations and funding for subsequent Olympic squads. He architected the creation of the GB Boxing World Class Programme (WCP) by getting 2,000 signatures calling for funding for novice boxing from the National Lottery after a failed utility by the ABA. Then he marched to Parliament handy it to the late Minister of Sport Tony Banks, a boxing fan who helped safe £491,000 of Lottery funding. You may argue that, all issues thought-about, Harrison is among the many greatest amateurs we have now ever produced as he set the scene for the medals that adopted. If you might be a fan of any boxer who gained a medal after 2000, you need to doff your cap to Audley Harrison.

“I was right there in the trenches inside and outside the ring,” he stated. “It took me three times to qualify for the Olympics, and if I had not qualified this would not have all started. I had to win the gold, not just for me, but for the future of British boxing. That is why I was screaming from the rooftops that I was going to do it. Then the World Class Performance Plan was locked in.”

Harrison created A-Force Promotions with the intention of getting full autonomy over his professional profession. He eschewed gives from the established promoters on the time to strike out on his personal. Feathers have been ruffled. Years later, in the confines of the Celebrity Big Brother home, Harrison came upon simply how a lot of a marked man he was again then.

“I was like Superman coming up, in my mind — that’s how I prepared,” he recalled. “The confidence, the aura I had constructed. I felt like I couldn’t be stopped so saved on pushing, however I hit a wall and, in the end, didn’t achieve all of the issues I needed to achieve as a skilled. Some of the stuff received misplaced in the hustle and shuffle. “Kellie [Maloney] and I have been in the Celebrity Big Brother home. She instructed me: ‘Look, Audley you went against the system. We’d have conferences each week asking how we may mess you up’. I was a risk to the system so it needed to make me a part of it. Boxing is difficult sufficient, so if in case you have struggles outdoors of it then it’s even more durable.

“It is public information that my cellphone was hacked. I did the general public settlement with The Mirror in 2010 and it turned out in 2004 little Audley Harrison was being hacked once we have been reviewing my BBC deal. When I turned professional, my factor was that I was going to be heavyweight champion of the world underneath my personal phrases.

“My parents are Jamaican. We came from slavery to independence and I didn’t want to be owned by nobody — that was my biggest thing. You can call me stubborn, but I never wanted to work for promoters. Then I had to do it and it almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy as I said I would only win a world title under A-Force Promotions.”

The followers had turned on him, too. When he was knocked out in three towards Michael Sprott in February 2007 some folks in the group booed him whereas he was nonetheless on the canvas receiving remedy. It was disgusting. The man they vilified had gone from serving time for theft and assault to attaining nice issues but the notion of him was overwhelmingly unfavourable. It is the most important outbreak of schadenfreude I have ever seen in British boxing. Harrison, nevertheless, is philosophical about how issues have panned out for him. “In my pro career, I didn’t get what I wanted,” he admitted. “But if you had said to anyone that I’d have come out of a cell when I was 19 years of age without qualifications and then a decade later I’d be Olympic champion followed by European champion, world title challenger and two-time Prizefighter winner, and also household name and entrepreneur…”

He thought for a second and stated: “People would be like: ‘This guy is crazy!’ I take the rough with the smooth. I can appreciate where I come from, how high I climbed. Yeah, I didn’t get what I deserved to get, but that is life and you don’t always get what you set your heart on. I went way, way from where I was at. It is almost mind-boggling. In life, you put your mind to something, try to be what you want to be and you can avoid becoming a product of your environment.”

Harrison’s time in Feltham, and a stint in the Mount in Hemel Hempstead, was effectively-spent. In his 2001 autobiography, Living The Dream, he wrote that: ‘[I] used the experience to my advantage in a different way — to improve my body and mind.’ “No matter how tough it gets, you can come out of prison and integrate yourself with society if you set yourself goals,” he opined. “Prison was fun, but you think: ‘I’m not doing that again’. You lose your liberty, so you decide not to go back there. I’d had an epiphany when I was young of becoming a successful, famous sportsman and I’d been chasing it subconsciously because I was playing every sport under the sun. I was a decent footballer, a decent cricketer, a decent rugby player, but as soon as I found boxing I knew this was the sport for me. I just knew I was going to change my life and did everything to jump on that train. I got almost everything I had envisioned.”

There have been revenge wins over Danny Williams [rsf 3 in 2006], who he dropped a choice to in December 2005 and Sprott [ko 12 in April 2010 for the EBU belt] then, later, a failed WBA title tilt towards David Haye. His followers, this author included, saved the house fires burning. Even in the direction of the tip, we’d hear he was preventing, say, David Price and ship out a textual content: ‘All it takes is one wave of that magical left hand!’ The Haye combat was significantly onerous to abdomen as Harrison solely threw a single punch. The Board withheld his purse in the aftermath. However, he instructed BN that it wasn’t a case of being afraid to tug the set off, by that time he merely couldn’t do it anymore. It was extraordinarily irritating for each him and the final remaining members of the Harrison tribe.

“Down the line, I took more punishment, especially in the last two years, but I’m trying to live my best life. I am not Superman anymore, my memory isn’t as sharp as it was. I’ve got a photographic memory so it is still better than most yet it is not as good as it was, and that is down to boxing. I’m still functioning at a high level, still more optimised than the average person, and I still go about getting my goals achieved. Part of living is that we take our knocks and still move forward. We’ve all got one life to live with no rehearsals so I am living my best life to my best ability. I still get s**t done, still have aspirations, goals, and am still achieving.”

“My game plan was to move, move and walk him [Haye] onto shots, but it went horrible for me and I’ll never get a chance to rectify it,” he added, turning his consideration to the Haye combat in explicit. “The press made it greater than what it was: ‘Oh my god, he only threw one punch. Why did he only throw one punch?’ The actuality is that I by no means received a second likelihood.

“I was the comeback king when it came to rematches. I was the guy who could always correct my mistakes. Even with Haye, Price and Wilder — the three Ds — I felt I could correct those losses, but I never got a chance to, partly due to Father Time. In my prime things might have been different. But those three unavenged losses have now been settled in my head and in my soul — I can move on.”

David Price knocks down Audley Harrison. Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images

When the time got here to stroll away, the previous European champion was coaching for a comeback. A punch to the pinnacle in sparring coupled with put on and tear persuaded him that going to the effectively once more was a idiot’s errand. He has not appeared again since. “I walked away because I noticed that my eyes were off,” he revealed. “A research got here out in regards to the subject of concussion in [American] soccer. My diploma thesis was a justification of boxing in England. I did my analysis on the newest stats on boxing and puglistica dementia. I couldn’t deny it. I thought: ‘S**t, this thing is real’. I appeared in the mirror, and presently I was pestering Eddie [Hearn] to return again to combat [Anthony] Joshua, and I stated: ‘Audley, you’ve received to get out of it your personal manner, in case you don’t you’ll be speaking about coming again to boxing in eight or 10 years’.

“By this point, I had nothing left to give. My legs, my knees, they were gone. I’d had at least eight operations on my body: my knuckles, shoulders, a hernia — I thought: ‘Audley, you are done’. This is a young man’s sport. Kids are boxing at 11, 12 then going to the Olympics at the age of 19. I went there at 29 so Father Time was not on my side. I realised that this was it, I wasn’t going to be a world champion so I let it go and walked away from the sport.”

Most fighters limp away from the game but Harrison and his spouse, Raychel, run a profitable salon in Los Angeles, they’ve their very own vary of hair and magnificence merchandise, he performs poker at a excessive degree, and has fingers in a few different pies. His haters will hate listening to this, however twenty years after netting gold Harrison is profitable the sport of life.

“Life is all about the good as well as the bad,” he stated. “Part of me flushing boxing, flushing being a promoter, was leaving the country to go to LA. [I’ve] a lot of living and business left to do. I’ve learned from boxing how to do and how not to do things. I’ve got experience in boxing, business and life that I can pass on. I’m a young, wise old man who has done a lot with his life and is trying to give something back.”

The Austrian poet Thomas Bernhard wrote that: “Time destroys everything we do, whatever it is.” My beloved t-shirt is now worn, torn and frayed. It is falling aside on account of age — a metaphor, maybe, for the accidents the person himself suffered or the truth that the many years are flying by for all of us — but the picture on the entrance of it stays as vivid as these halcyon days once we adopted a new hero. Harrison remains to be an inspirational determine for the members of his tribe. After the interview, and flushed with pleasure, I despatched a textual content out to the others. The replies summed up our fanaticism: ‘He can still do it… One wave of that magical left hand… Yes he can.’

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