Audley Harrison takes another belated step on the path to heavyweight glory this weekend when he faces Reading’s quiet man Michael Sprott. The two fighter’s careers a study in opposites. For Audley, the toast of the domestic and international scenes for almost five years following his surprise Olympic victory, this represents another meaningful hurdle – for Sprott, a fighter forced to earn a crust around the rings of Europe, this represents a major opportunity to establish himself as a legitimate contender at the higher level.
Their personalities are as divergent as their careers too. Audley, the melancholic egotist prone to referring to himself in the third person and belligerently defiant, read deluded, in the face of overwhelming evidence of his failings against Michael Sprott, the shy, retiring, steady practitioner from the South West. Prepared to go to Germany to fight giants, South Africa to face future World-Champions and always a willing combatant.
It will be interesting to see if either fighter withdraws to the shell they’ve been known to inhabit on the big occasion; Sprott’s surprising slump to a raw Matt Skelton, and Audley’s catalogue of apologetic performances versus Danny Williams and Skelton too evidence of the mental weakness.
Harrison is the more blessed physically, but Sprott is steadily effective at everything and will not fold as easily as the out of shape, and potentially shot, Danny Williams did last time out. It will be interesting to see how significant that performance and result proves when compared to the forthcoming fixture. Sprott will not be over-awed by Harrison size, having beaten Timo Hoffman amongst others, and will be fit and ready – he’s an active heavyweight and will realise the potential earning power a win would secure him. Equally, being the underdog, or ‘opponent’ is nothing new to Sprott – having faced quality men like Vidoz, Virchis, Hoffman, Sanders and others away from home.
For Audley, this is perhaps the last domestic stop before either a European level opponent or an imported American body. Frank Warren, for all his critics, has added some direction and activity to Audley’s natural ability and finally, perhaps too late, the big Londoner has shown the humility to accept the assistance.
Instinctively, I lean toward Harrison who does appear genuinely focused on the job of fighting, and with many of the managerial and promotional responsibilities removed he has more time to prepare mentally and physically for the challenge. The loss of Buddy McGirt is a shame, Thel Torrance is an experience hand, but had failed to motivate Audley previously, it would have been interesting to gauge the effect of a different voice on the Sydney Olympian.
Harrison by decision in a mediocre contest.