Heavyweight Audley Harrison saved his boxing career with a sensational last-round knockout to win the vacant European heavyweight title on Friday night in London. Harrison, who suffered a ripped tendon in his right shoulder in the second round, fought most of his fight against Michael Sprott using only one hand. Despite trailing and being two minutes away from a career-ending defeat, Harrison knocked out Sprott with a sensational left hook.
“My career was on the line so losing wasn’t an option,” said the 38-year-old Harrison. “I had to find a way to win and I knew the left would be the one that gets him. When it landed I just walked away because I knew it was over. It’s definitely the best punch I’ve ever thrown, especially in those circumstances, but it would’ve knocked out anyone – including the Klitschkos. It was championship-winning material. It was a Hail Mary of a punch that would’ve taken out any heavyweight in the world.”
Regarding the injury, he stated, “I had an operation in 2002 when I ripped a tendon and I think I did the same thing again. The pain was excruciating but there was absolutely no way I was going to quit. Not once did I think about quitting. You open people up with the jab but because of my injury I didn’t have a jab but luckily I’m a quick learner. It was hard for me to pick up any rounds and I’ve never boxed on the orthodox side before. I felt so hampered but I never lost hope. In the sixth I hurt him with an uppercut and a hook but it was hard to get going.”
After winning Olympic gold in 2000, Harrison’s professional career had, before this win, failed to live up to its early promise. He admitted he was in ‘the last-chance saloon’ ahead of this Matchroom Sport-promoted contest at Alexandra Palace in north London.
In the build-up, Sprott, 35, claimed Harrison did not have the heart to beat him but Harrison believed the manner of this victory would silence his critics.
“I would like someone to ask Michael if he still thinks I have no heart,” added an emotional Harrison, who is expected to be out of action for at least six weeks. “I showed a lot of courage to fight with one hand and I showed the heart and desire that I wanted to become the European champion.
“Winning the gold medal is something no one can take away but this is sweet and has brought tears to my eyes. People have said a lot of bad things about me and I’m crying because I’m proud of what I’ve done in these circumstances. When you work hard you get your rewards and I work hard every day in the gym. Some people do not understand but I’m real and I don’t make any apologies for who I am. For me to find that shot when I needed it most says something about me. I said it would be something special and no one can say that wasn’t special.
“I have a tick next to determination, a tick next to pride, a tick next to heart and a tick next to punching power. I did 12 grueling rounds, most of them with one hand. I showed plenty of bottle, plenty of desire, plenty of spirit and plenty of heart – any boxer could see that. The battle was hard and I wanted it to be hard. Now people can see how much I want to be a world champion and there is no doubt in my mind that I will be one before I retire, no matter what people say about me.”