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Harrison will seize his final chance, says former mentor

LONDON (Reuters) - Audley Harrison’s chequered career will fade into obscurity if he loses to David Haye in Saturday’s WBA heavyweight duel in Manchester, according to the man responsible for steering him to Olympic and Commonwealth gold.

Olympic gold medalist Audley Harrison from England weighs in at Atlantic City, New Jersey, November 22, 2002. REUTERS/Teddy Blackburn

Tony Burns, Britain’s most respected amateur coach, is well qualified to offer his thoughts on the sell-out world title fight, having watched both Londoners learn the ropes.

He said Harrison’s response to being in the “last chance saloon” will be a positive one as he takes on the overwhelming favorite.

“Audley’s at the exit door now,” Burns told Reuters in east London’s Repton gym which is dripping with boxing legacy and where he schooled hundreds of British amateur champions and 10 Olympians including Maurice Hope and later Harrison.

“If it does go wrong on Saturday and he gets chinned that’s his lot. He may as well go back to Los Angeles and see his days out because he will never be taken seriously again. But if the real Audley turns up there is only one winner for me.”

The 39-year-old Harrison’s career unraveled after he won the Sydney Olympics and the cash rolled in. He gained a reputation as a playboy and was regularly booed when he struggled against washed-up opponents.

Since landing a belated shot at a world title, however, Burns believes Harrison has rediscovered the hunger for a sport which he appeared to have in the palm of his hands in 2000.

“He wasted his pro career in my opinion,” Burns said. “He tried to be a businessman, do everything, make big bucks, but he went to pieces as a boxer because he stopped working.

“A few years ago you would never see Audley down here every night at 10pm like he has been. He would be in a Knightsbridge Club. But he’s looking as good as I’ve ever seen him and if the proper Audley Harrison turns out he will beat David.

“If he is performing like he is down here in training then he will win. David is too small... Audley’s a proper heavyweight.

“With respect, who has David beaten in the heavyweights? (Nikolai) Valuev, don’t make me laugh. David just ran round him for 12 rounds. To get at Audley he will have to come in close and that will be in Audley’s range and he does have the equipment to do some real damage.”

Editing by Pritha Sarkar