York Hall - Audley Harrison threw his hat back into the ring of heavyweight contenders and made history by becoming the first man to win two Prizefighter tournaments. Audley comfortably bested American Derek Rossy in the final, recording a 2nd round stoppage. Rossy (16st 12lbs)was tired and marked up from having a very tough route to the final whereas Harrison (16st 13lbs) barely broke a sweat all night. Audley kept Rossy at bay with an occasional but effective southpaw jab and floored the American with a lead left after two minutes of the first. Rossy showed heart to survive the round as Harrison cautiously looked for the finish. Another lead left dropped Rossy again in the 2nd but this time he had nothing left in the tank and the referee was correct to call a halt.
Rossy was perhaps fortunate to be in the final after scraping past Ian Lewison (18st 3lbs) on a split decision. Lewison bossed the opening exchanges but a late flurry in the first from Rossy must have caught the judges' eyes. Lewison was again the busier fighter in the 2nd but was quite untidy, a good left hook aside. Rossy did at least throw some leather back towards the end of the round. The third was also untidy but I felt Lewison had done enough to get the nod. Two of the judges saw otherwise, however. 29-28, 28-29, 29-28.
In his semi final Audley met previous conquerer and former Prizefighter winner, Martin Rogan (16st 10lbs). Rogan was game as always and never in serious trouble but Harrison's superior skills and jab in particular were too much for the limited Irishman. Audley timed his shots very nicely and won at a canter but his reluctance to use his excellent jab more often is still a frustration. There was a bit of needle between the two before and during the fight but all hugs and smiles afterwards.
In the quarter finals, Pre tournament favourite Travis “Freight Train” Walker (17st 11lbs) started fast and threw big bombs from the opening bell but Derek Rossy managed to evade them easily enough. Florida's Walker drew plenty of “ooohs” from the crowd but connected with little as Rossy picked him off with the occasional jab. Walker fared little better over the next two rounds and will probably feel aggrieved at not getting the decision but he just didn't land enough despite being the aggressor. Rossy won a split decision 29-28, 28-29, 29-28.
It was the only quarter final that lasted the full three rounds. Ian Lewison made very short of Germany's Timo Hoffman (17st 11lbs) working the body well until Hoffman left his hands drop a little. Lewison then landed a big right hook to the temple to send Hoffman to the canvas. Hoffman beat the count but the fight was waved off. Hoffman has been the distance with Vitali Klitchsko and only been stopped once before so it suggests that Ian Lewison has a bit of pop when he lets his hands go.
Denmark's Claus Bertino (16st 10lbs) lasted only 25 seconds against Audley Harrison where, somewhat ironically, the first left hand Audley threw, ended the fight. The ropes kept Bertino up but he didn't know where he was or what day it was and the decision to stop the fight must have been an easy one.
Normally a bit of an untidy brawler, Martin Rogan boxed very nicely to stop Poland's Albert Sosnowski (15st 13lbs) in the 3nd round. A good jab from Rogan followed by a right cross sent Sosnowski reeling across the ring and in the 2nd, Rogan went one better with the right and punched Sosnowski right through the ropes! It was ruled a slip even though a solid punch landed. The bell rang almost as soon as Sosnowski climbed back into the ring but the damage was done, two more big right hands from Rogan in the 3rd and Sosnowski was stopped on his feet.
Olympic Boxing team captain Tom Stalker made his pro debut on the night also, easing to a comfortable four round decision over worthy journeyman Kristian Laight, 40-36. Coming in at light welter, Stalker showed a full range of skills and might have wanted the stoppage but not many manage to take Laight out early. (see what I did there?)
After the previous prizefighter, which was widely regarded as the best ever, there was a sense of impending disappointment with this one but it more than delivered. York Hall was packed and even though almost all were there to see Audley on his back, A-Force managed to get the crowd on his side on his way to victory. Audley's lengthy bar tab at last chance saloon has yet to be closed but it's hard to know where he goes from here. If boxing is all about levels, it's still difficult to tell what Harrison's level actually is. On his day, he's clearly a class above the tyros and journeymen usually assembled on Prizefighter cards, but whenever he steps up, he ends up lying down. It is likely he will get one more big fight off the back of this latest performance but will he do himself and his skills justice next time or will he go back into his shell? Whatever happens, we'll all watch it, that's for sure.
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