Harrison vs Polo: No easy steps to the top!
By Gavin Macleod (January 28, 2005) 
Scott Harrison
It seemed like a familiar scene. Scott Harrison stood in the Braehead Arena Ring, arms aloft, as he was announced as the winner of another WBO featherweight title defence. The passionate crowd were present, Scottish flags were seen all around the arena, an opponent stood shattered and disappointed in the opposite corner and Harrison had his belt wrapped around his waste. Something was missing however, and that was the vociferous adulation to which Harrison’s victories are usually met. Indeed, not only was the rapturous applause nowhere to be heard, but in its place were boo’s from some parts of the hometown crowd.

Harrison is still dismayed by this, as on the night in question he had obliterated a 24-0 opponent in 59 seconds. The opponent as we know was the Ethiopian Samuel Kebede, who turned out to be nowhere near as good as his 24 wins suggested. The twenty-seven year old Scot was wondering what more he had to do however to keep his fans happy admitting “I trained hard for two months for Kebede. Then I knocked him out in the first round, but I still got stick for it!” With that said Harrison has now realised what he needs to do to boost his massive appeal in Scotland, and that is fight the best!

Certainly, as the man from Cambuslang had been ripping through his recent opponents, the Tartan army grew ever more aware that Harrison needed big names to test him. His Manager Frank Maloney sat down with him a few months ago with a list of four opponents for his next date, January 28th, but did not expect the response he got. Harrison was looking over the highlighted opponents on the WBO rankings list in front of him but immediately pointed to the top name and said “What about him?” Mr Maloney informed Harrison that he was not obligated to fight the top contender, Victor Polo, until April, but Harrison had made up his mind saying “Why not fight him now?”

And so it will come to pass on January the 28th, that Scott Harrison will make the fifth defence, in his second reign as WBO featherweight champion, against Columbia’s Victor Polo. An opponent who Maloney has stated he did not relish taking on, but had to accept, as Harrison wanted to reimburse his fans for the Kebede fiasco. He has found himself on the receiving end of similar good will recently, as Sports Network (Harrison’s promoters) have given him a new six-fight deal. Nothing really to write home about you would think? Well this deal includes a “Super-fight clause” which guarantee’s Harrison a fight against either another champion or a major name in one of his next six outings. Taking all of this into consideration, it is clear to see why this will be Harrison’s biggest fight to date. Win and he’s looking at negotiations with the likes of In-Jin Chi or Marco Antonio Barrera, but lose and he’s stranded desolate and disparaging on a desert island, far away from the Glitz and Glamour of a major Las Vegas fight night.

So what of Victor Polo then? Does he have the necessary tools and talent to relegate Harrison back down to challenger status, or will he provide more fuel for the Harrison fire that threatens to engulf the featherweight division?

At age thirty-four father time is not a friend of Polo’s, and you can be certain that his best days are behind him, but this does not mean he will be an easy nights work. With a slate 34-4-2 (24 KOs), there isn’t too much that the tough man from Bolivar hasn’t seen. He has challenged for a world title on no less than three occasions, but each time has come up just short. He lost a close nine round technical decision for the IBF title to former Harrison conqueror/victim Manuel Medina in ’99, lost a unanimous decision to Derrick “Smoke” Gainer for the WBA strap in ’01 and most recently dropped a close twelve round verdict to Julio Pablo Chacon for the WBO title. Of course Chacon would then go on to relinquish the title to Harrison nine month later, and taking this into account we have a good frame of reference for this match-up.

Polo and Chacon shared knockdowns in their fight before Chacon was given a razor thin split verdict, by scores of 115-112, 114-13, 114-115, when the two met. This performance from Polo does not match up favourably with Harrison, who bossed and battered Chacon for 12 rounds en route to a wide decision awarded by the scores 117-111, 117-111 and 117-112. Chacon was the last time we saw Polo in with a real top level performer, and since then the Columbian has not really threatened to gatecrash the trendy scene at 126. Fighting only four times since the Chacon fight in January ’02 is hardly ideal preparation for a champion like Scott Harrison, and sadly for Polo I think this will be more than evident on the night he shares a ring with Scotland’s most treasured sporting son. Of these four fights two have been ten round decisions, two have been TKO’s inside four rounds, and all four have taken place in Columbia against very meagre opposition.

However, Polo does have some attributes that may cause for concern. He is two inches taller than his Scottish counterpart and has a five-inch reach advantage, both of which struck Maloney immediately after seeing the Bolivar Bull. On a recent Scottish Radio Sports show Maloney commented that, upon seeing Polo, he realised that it was “the first time I’ve ever seen anyone tower over Scott and have broader shoulders as well. He looks very big.”

Conversely, physical advantages are not something Harrison will be lacking in on the night as he is well renowned for his size and strength come fight time. Weighing in at nine stone Harrison looks frail and gaunt, but just over twenty-four hours later, the decrepit looking figure is replaced with a man cutting the shape of a ripped and muscular light-welterweight. When in beside his opponents, Harrison looks like the school bully picking on his younger colleagues, and he usually handles them with the same style of disregard into the bargain.

He believes that Polo is coming to fight. Not jab and move not counterpunch him all night, but to come and try and out fight the fighter. I suspect that Polo’s tactics will be a little bit more refined than this, but if they are not, then he could find himself learning a very painful lesson at the hands of the champion. Whilst Harrison will never pick you apart with the surgeon like precision of someone like Barrera, he will plough straight into you with the same respect that a demolition ball shows a disused tower block.

It will be a display of similar ferocity that Harrison will need in order to really make the U.S. media market sit up and take notice of his talents, and one that he knows he needs to exhibit. At this stage of his career there will be no easy way to get to the top of a division that he already feels confident of being number one in. At this juncture the ski lift up the mountain stops, and it is time to get out the crampons and ice pick to embark upon the final journey to reach the summit of his chosen profession.

Indeed, these words are not lost on Scott Harrison and he is self-admittedly in the best shape of his career and looking to put on an impressive display against his well respected opponent. The feeling around the Harrison camp is that we will see Scott at his very best this coming Friday, and I would certainly go along with that. Polo has been earmarked as the last remaining obstacle in Harrison’s way to the big fights, and that should see the WBO Kingpin in unforgiving mood.

With the lack of quality opposition that Polo has faced recently, and the consideration that his last fight was at 130lbs, I would be extremely surprised to see him go the distance in this fight. Harrison will be swarming all over his man from the first bell, and while Polo’s southpaw stance and durability may steer him beyond the halfway point, the relentless clubbing blows of “The Real McCoy” will be taking their toll. Respites will be few and far between for the challenger and I would expect to see him slowing considerably, in a bruised, bashed and demoralised state on his way to getting stopped somewhere around rounds eight to ten. It would not be inconceivable that Polo, who has only been stopped once in his career, (By TKO5 back in Feb ’95 at the hands of Edgar Monserrat) may last the full twelve rounds, but with the dream fights within touching distance for Harrison, this writer would expect to see him dig that little bit deeper to reach out and grab his most cherished of opportunities.
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