By Mark Whalley
On Saturday, Audley Harrison went into the last-chance saloon (for perhaps the sixth time) and emerged in one piece.
“A-Force”, one of the most derided characters in British boxing history, won his second Prizefighter igniting hopes that this victory can springboard him to another tilt at the world heavyweight title.
Prizefighter, an 8-man tournament consisting of three-round matches, has thrown up some fantastic nights of entertainment since its conception in 2008.
The format demands a lightning start and encourages boxers to go for an immediate knockout, and Harrison did just that in his quarter-final, walking Danish outsider Claus Bertino onto a left hand for the stoppage after just 25 seconds.
The first quarter-final had already been won by popular Irishman Martin Rogan, who won the inaugural event and holds a points victory over Harrison himself.
His battle with tough Pole Albert Sosnowski was one of the most exciting of the evening, which at one point saw Sosnowski knocked clean through the ropes into the first row of the crowd.
Rogan eventually stopped his man on his feet in the third round.
The other two quarters were won by Brixton rookie Ian Lewison, who impressively knocked out the supposedly-durable German Timo Hoffman in the first; and Brooklyn native Derric Rossy, who surprised pre-tournament favourite Travis Walker by winning a split-decision points victory after a turgid, scrappy affair.
Harrison vs Rogan was built up as the most intriguing match of the event but in reality their semi-final failed to catch fire.
Harrison, who was trimmer and more focussed than at any other time in the past five years, displayed the skills that won him an Olympic gold medal back in 2000, keeping Rogan at bay with his jab and capitalising on mistakes with sharp lefts.
The second semi pitted local favourite Lewison against Rossy, and in the second round it looked like Lewison was going to deliver the knockout that the London crowd were baying for.
On several occasions he hit Rossy with big left hooks that left the American with a bloody nose and swelling around the eyes.
However, Lewison ran out of gas in the third round, and eventually lost a narrow points decision.
Harrison, for whom “redemption” has been a common theme in his interviews over the past few years, went into the final favourite and justified this with a knockout in the second round.
In truth he looked far fresher than Rossy, who had been the distance in both previous matches and had not displayed any power that might threaten the Wembley fighter.
Rossy was put down two and half minutes into the first round and from then on embarked on a damage limitation mission until a sweet left ended it in the second.
Harrison, typically jubilant afterwards, claimed that he was ready for one more shot at the big time.
Of course, we’ve heard this all before – many times – but in A-Force’s defence his performance reminded viewers of his amateur pedigree.
At 41 years of age though, his chances of real glory were blown several years ago.