Photos by Sumio Yamada
AUDLEY HARRISON vs DOMINICK GUINN
THURSDAY UPDATE: Two heavyweights whose star potential has greatly dimmed meet in a crucial, career-at-stake 10-rounder when Olympic gold medallist Audley Harrison faces Dominick Guinn on ESPN2s Friday Night Fights.
Harrison not only lost his unbeaten record he also lost a great deal of respect in the boxing industry when he was floored and outpointed by Danny Williams in London last December. Guinn, meanwhile, has managed to win only one of his last five fights.
In Harrisons case, his safety-first progress has been much derided in his home country of Britain. The Fraudley" jibes started long ago his forename has also been restructured as Ordinary" by unkind British critics. After Harrison had unimpressively outpointed survivor Julius Francis a couple of years ago the tabloid Sun came up with an Aud the Fraud" headline. The A-Farce" putdown play on his A-Force" nickname surfaced in the U.K. as far back as Harrisons one-round pro debut walkover in 2001.
Harrison was supposed to make a statement against Danny Williams. Instead he was appallingly negative, blowing a fight that was there for him to win. Former featherweight champion Barry McGuigan pulled no punches in a column in Britains tabloid Mirror, caustically observing: Harrison does not like to fight." Veteran writer Colin Hart commented in The Sun: Audley was so timorous I wonder if hes afraid of the dark. If he had been wearing an Army uniform hed be facing a court martial, charged with running away in the face of the enemy." Danny Williams summed up the general feeling about his opponent that night: He was terrified."
Now Harrison has to come back and try to prove the critics wrong. His Las Vegas trainer, Thell Torrence, talking over the phone after the Williams fight, said there were problems going into the fight, the principal one being that Harrison apparently thought that all he had to do was to land a big left hand from his southpaw stance and go home. Instead he found himself in a fight. It seems that Harrison hurt his left hand early in the bout. It was the bad night to end all bad nights at the worst possible time.
Torrence believes that Harrison, contrary to popular belief, is tough and has heart. He feels that Harrison is proving this by coming back against Guinn, who on paper represents the toughest test of his career apart from Danny Williams.
The veteran trainer will not be working with Harrison in this fight, citing his duties training Hasim Rahman and also working with Vassiliy Jirov, who has a fight scheduled for April 20.
Im working with the champion of the world and Vassiliy is moving back to cruiser and he has a fight next week and I want to help him Im only one person and it didnt work out," Torrence said from Las Vegas on Thursday.
Torrence believes Harrison should be able to beat Guinn, saying: "Guinn will fight as hard as you make him fight but hes a tough guy and you cannot get behind with him youve got to stay ahead of him. Youve got to really take charge in the first three or four rounds. The way you fight a guy like Guinn, especially with Audleys style, being a southpaw, you go to the side and keep him turning. If hes got his right foot in the right place hell always keep him turning off balance and running into that left hand. He cant let this guy back him up and get too much respect early.
"Audleys got the style to beat this guy hes got good hands, good eyes, good rhythm, good techniques. As long as he reinforces those techniques he should do OK.
"I put five years into this kid and theres no reason he shouldnt be champion of the world."
Sadly, I do not think too many people would agree with Torrence.
Harrison is 34 and it is almost six years since he captured the gold medal in the super heavyweight division in Sydney. He still tells interviewers that he feels he is on course to being world champion but the words ring hollow.
For such a big man almost 6ft 6ins, and weighing 255 pounds for this fight Harrison has too often been agonisingly apprehensive. Even against a worn Robert Davis he seemed in danger of letting the fight slip away before landing a big left in the seventh round. There have been some good nights, such as his demolition of opponents such as fellow-British heavyweight Matthew Ellis, the Argentinean Lisandro Diaz, the fancifully nicknamed Dutch Sonny Liston", Richel Hersisia, and trial horse Robert Wiggins, but he was meeting smaller, outgunned and outclassed underdogs.
I give Harrison credit, though, for taking the match with Guinn. It shows that Harrison realises he has to do something of a significant nature to put his career back on the right track.
Then we come to Dominick Guinn, who scaled 228 pounds at Thursday's weigh-in. The former U.S. and national Golden Gloves amateur champion seemed to have what it takes when he knocked out Michael Grant and then won a unanimous decision over Nigerias Duncan Dokiwari both much bigger men in consecutive fights on HBO. All too soon things went wrong, though, starting with his homecoming fight in Little Rock, AR, when he was outfought and outgamed by underdog Monte Barrett two years ago. Since then we have had the losses to Sergei Liakhovich and James Toney and a curious 10-round draw with journeyman Friday Ahunanya when neither man seemed to want to hit the other. Guinn is coming up for 31 and running out of time. Although he was game against Toney, sticking it out to the bitter end despite a rib injury, the fact is that he was outclassed. Guinn, just like Harrison, badly needs to win this fight.
Guinn is now trained by Joe Goossen, who said from his Los Angeles home that while he respects Harrison he feels that Guinn is ready to win a big fight again.
Talking about Harrison, Goossen said: I saw him at his worst moment against Williams but Ive also seen him at his best and I expect to see the best. I think he had an off night against Danny Williams for whatever reason. You hear a lot of things. But I think its a challenge to anybody who fights Audley Harrison. Just the fact that hes a southpaw, 6ft 6ins, hes an accomplished boxer/mover, the longest arms youre going to see youve got some formidable things you have to contend with to implement your strategy."
He feels, though, that the gritty 12-rounder against Toney, when he was fighting hurt, has helped Guinns confidence. Youve got to fight through those injuries and now hes experienced it," Goossen said, and I dont think anythings going to stop Dominick Guinn on the 14th I think youre going to see him give it a 120 per cent effort. I think hell definitely throw a lot more punches [than in recent fights] and weve worked very hard on a good game plan."
Although Goossen did not wish to go into specifics, that plan will almost certainly involve keeping the pressure on the bigger, heavier Harrison and forcing him to revert to a negative, dont-hit-me posture.
What Harrison has to do, of course, is to try to keep Guinn occupied with the right jab and then drill him with left hands on the outside and try to time him for the uppercut when his opponent gets close.
The big problem with Harrison is the reluctance that he has exhibited too many times a reluctance to take a risk in case he gets hit that was never more evident than in the fight with Williams. It is frustrating to those watching, because Harrison can box and he can punch. When Harrison had to fight, after being knocked down, he had his best round of the bout when wobbling Williams in the 11th.
Guinns predicament in recent fights has been similar to Harrisons in that he has failed to let his hands go and in consequence he has let winnable fights get away from him: I am convinced that Guinn could have beaten Liakhovich with a little more determination and desire.
Determination and desire, though, are what Guinn has been lacking lately. Can he rediscover these qualities in the fight with Harrison? Goodness knows there are questions about both men going into this fight questions soon to be answered.
When you have a meeting between boxers who have faltered psychologically such as Guinn and Harrison the one who wins is probably going to be the one who can bring the greater mental strength and psychic stamina into the ring.
I do not think it is cruel to say that both Harrison and Guinn have shown that they can get discouraged in a fight but Guinn was starting to become consistently disappointing whereas Harrison had only the one truly dreadful night.
If Harrison loses this fight he loses all credibility as a potential contender, which he surely knows. He also knows that there are people in British boxing who will take enormous delight in his discomfort should he suffer his second defeat in a row. I believe that Harrison has too much pride to let this happen; too big an ego to let the knockers back home have the last laugh. I doubt that we will see an aggressive new" Harrison it is too late for that but I believe he will be sharp, disciplined and accurate and that he will not allow the smaller Guinn to make him back out of the fight.
While being well aware that Harrison is capable of exhibiting undue caution I do believe that, of the two boxers, he is the one most likely to fight hard enough and punch often enough to win this fight.
Updated with quotes from Thell Torrence and including the fighters' weights from Thursday's weigh-in.