I took last Friday off to travel up to old London town with some friends to go and watch the latest in the Prizefighter series of tournaments. If you don’t know what I’m talking about and haven’t read any of my previous posts, Prizefighter is a format created by Barry Hearn to try and get some excitement and interest back into boxing now that MMA (and the UFC in particular) are slowly taking over. This was going to be one worth watching as we had Danny Williams and Audley Harrison on the card and they’re not famed for their love of each other. I’d have liked to have seen Michael Sprott too, but after a family tragedy he had to pull out.
We made pretty good time on the road on the way up, but despite my suggestion of heading onto the M25 from the M4, and wrapping around the bottom of London (which is by far the easiest way of getting to ExCel), the oh-so-helpful satnav took us straight through London. When I say straight through I mean straight through; we came up past the Natural History Museum, up Knightsbridge past Harrods, then on past Trafalgar Square and Picadilly Circus, and finally along the Thames within spitting distance of the Eye. The last time I was there was a warm evening in the summer and it was far less stressful than sitting at red light after red light in a carful of people trying to point the right direction. It’s amazing how much of it I didn’t take in the last time I was there.
After a slight detour, a quick freshen up and a few beers we wandered down next to the DLR to ExCel (which, by the way, has had a MASSIVE expansion built) and joined the huge throng of people who’d come to watch the boxing. Luckily we got there quite early, as we had unreserved seating – that is to say a free-for-all – and managed to get some good seats with a really good view of the action. There were quite a few boxing celebrities in attendance including David Haye (I can’t wait to see him fight Valuev), Amir Khan and Michael Watson, and a really good atmosphere thanks to the 5000 others packed in. I think everyone in there was expecting to see a Williams/Harrison final, especially after the completely random draw (honest guvnor) put them on opposite sides of the brackets. We didn’t get to see that fight though….
Williams got drawn against a guy nicknamed ‘The Fridge’ and it was easy to see why, he was over twenty stone. What should’ve been a walk in the park for Williams was one of the worst fights I’ve ever see, he was knocked down twice in each of the opening two rounds and barely threw a punch, just leaning in and holding on. It got to the point where we and everyone around us were shouting things like ‘It’s supposed to be a fight” and “Hit him!”. The third and final round was a bit better, but by then it was too late, he was out. Considering all of his boasting beforehand and stating that he’d retire if he didn’t win the tournament, it’ll be interesting to see what he does now. One of the other favourites, Scott Gammer, went out in the first round too.
Most of the entertainment for the evening came in the shape of Audley (Fraudley, Audrey, Ordinary) Harrison though. He famously won Olympic gold, then went on to do…. well, nothing really. He moved to America because apparently “there’s a better standard of competition out there and there’s noone worth fighting in the UK” (I’m paraphrasing). This didn’t win him any fans over here, especially after he only won about half his fights over there against unknowns. So every time he came into the ring, or did anything, he got booed. Honestly, it was like panto at times, but very amusing. The biggest cheer of the night came when he slipped on the canvas and fell on his ass. The final actually turned out to be worth the wait. A relatively unknown Irish fighter, Coleman Barrett, won through to the final thanks to some brilliant boxing and movement, he was easily the best technical boxer there that night. He met Harrison in the final, and despite out-boxing Audley for most of it, Harrisons class came through towards the end of the second round and a couple of thundering lefts put Coleman out. I think by the end of the night Harrison had gone some way toward getting some respect back from the fans, but he’s got a long way to go. He said he wants to fight Haye…. yeah, maybe not just yet eh?
An awesome weekend all in all, my first taste of live pro boxing and I definitely want more. There’s nothing like the atmosphere of a packed arena and hearing some of those hits land. Back to work this morning was hard, especially when it was so dark, me feeling ill, and after getting some very upsetting news when I got there, I could do with some cheering up.