There has been something of the David Icke about Audley Harrison throughout his decade as a prominent heavyweight. Fuelled and demonstrated by a paradoxical cocktail of delusion, acute self-awareness and paranoia. Qualities which ostracised him from the boxing public and allowed the media to portray him as the villain, the idiot and the clown in his own one-man pantomime. But like all cabaret shows, it aint over til the fat lady sings and maybe, just maybe, said fat lady is back stage sipping honey and lemon as talk of a Harrison v Haye contest gathers pace.
It remains a long way from materialising but there appears to be a tangible sense of momentum about a clash between the new European Champion Audley Harrison and heavyweight boxing’s most dynamic operator David Haye. A fight widely mocked when Harrison suggested it last year now looks an increasingly plausible stop-gap for Haye as he continues to wrestle with the brothers Klitschko over their much-required unification bouts. Haye will be criticised for contemplating the Harrison encounter as it contradicts his highly marketable and oft-repeated eagerness to engage the best in the division as swiftly as possible, a lofty acclaim Harrison can only dream of. For a fighter keen on short-cuts the Harrison fight will appear to most as an untimely, unneccessary diversion whilst waiting for Vitali Klitschko to relent on his post-Lewis dictum of only fighting opponents who are fat, unprepared and without ambition.
The fight, should it come to pass, could conceivably prove to be a modern retelling of the hare and the tortoise parable. Haye the hare is fast out of the career blocks, races to the Cruiserweight title, on to a portion of the heavyweight crown and within sight of the line before resting ahead of the finish – Harrison the tortoise is slow off the start, fails miserably to progress with any urgency but somehow, miraculously appears at the finishing line level with the hare.
Of course, Haye should prove too quick, too aggressive, too heavy-handed and too in-form for Harrison the ponderous, cautious, injury prone and introspective southpaw. But as Harrison proved in defeating Sprott in the closing moments of their clash for the vacated EBU title, boxing has a penchant for the unexpected. The fact this fight is even being discussed evidence enough of the fickle nature of boxing and in particular the unpredictability of the heavyweight division.
Critics will feast on the contest if it is made but it will sell well despite and because of them. David Haye is proving a marketable enough commodity as an “event” fighter against whom almost any opponent could be pitched and an acceptable level of demand would be generated, Harrison the boxing pariah will bring more ‘back-story’ than any number of American cannon-fodder heavyweights the Hayemaker team could import and on the face of it offer much less risk. Or so the story goes. Harrison, who once tried hard to write, act, direct and produce his own story appears more likely to discover an ending to his liking with the help of promoter Barry Hearn at the helm and fate as his guide. David Haye has it all to lose and the fickle hand of fate may yet bestow the most unexpected conclusion to Harrison’s meandering biopic and Haye’s thrilling short-story.
The fight will need to resist the other temptations available to Haye, like the Valuev rematch option, nostalgia fights like Tua or Holyfield or better trade fights like Ruslan Chagaev or Tomasz Adamek the latter of which would offer tremendous opportunity to match the division’s two in-form fighters.