Former WBO champion Scott Harrison fighting fit for return to ring after lengthy absence
IT’S been delayed more often than an SPL decision, but the comeback of former world champion Scott Harrison will finally take place in Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall on Friday.
It will be the first time in ten years that Harrison will have fought in the iconic hall that has hosted so many memorable Scottish boxing nights and, if he can beat French opponent Brahim Bariz, it will be the most remarkable comeback that the old place has ever seen.
For there should be no mistake about it – Harrison is hoping to defy everything with this return. Age, boxing history, a tricky opponent and his own demons must be defeated if he is to win and move on quickly to the championship contest he craves.
His father and coach Peter is confident that Harrison can beat the odds: “Everyone who has been sparring with him is amazed at how strong and how fast Scott has been. He is as fit as he has ever been, and his new strength and conditioning coach George Fleming can’t believe how good his lungs and heart are.”
Now in his 17th year as a professional, Harrison has not fought in the ring since he defeated Nedal Hussein of Australia on points at Braehead Arena in November, 2005. That was his seventh successful defence of his WBO featherweight belt and tenth world title fight in all, both Scottish records.
Arguably only George Foreman has come out of a longer retirement to win a world title, the big preacher returning after a ten-year hiatus. Mike Tyson did it but he was only out of boxing for four years, while Sugar Ray Leonard was well beaten on his return after six years out.
Normally an absence of six years and seven months would be completely fatal to any boxer’s career but add in Harrison’s problems with drink and his years in prison in Spain on assault charges and there must be doubt about his ability to box at the top level again.
Harrison kept himself fit in jail, he is in impressive condition, but translating physical fitness into ring readiness at the age of 34 will be a big ask.
It is a mental exercise as much as anything, as Peter Harrison acknowledges. “He is ready, he has put everything behind him,” said Harrison senior, “and these days you’ll find him looking after his three children more than anything.”
At least the years of straining to make the weight are over. Harrison is comfortable at lightweight, coincidentally the weight division in which Scotland’s only current world champion, the newly-married Ricky Burns, plies his trade.
“Scott weighed in at 9st 9lbs on the dot on Friday,” said his father, “and so there’s no pressure on him to get down to the weight.
“He is in unbelievable condition. He’s actually bigger in the shoulders than he was and he has a six pack you wouldn’t believe. He really looks the part.”
Harrison’s opponent is no mug. Bariz is the former Belgian lightweight champion and has fought three times for the French lightweight title, drawing one and losing two, in a 40-bout career that reads: Won 17, lost 17, drawn 6.
Bariz’s reputation is that of someone who can look after himself, but Harrison has been in with the tough guys of Spanish jails, so he will not tolerate any Gallic mischief.
On the rest of the card, the main bout of the evening is the Celtic super-featherweight title fight between holder Paul Appleby of South Queensferry and Greenock’s former British and Commonwealth featherweight champion John Simpson.
“That should be a cracker of a fight,” said Peter Harrison. Anyone who saw their epic contest in 2008 in which Appleby pipped Simpson for the British super-bantamweight title would heartily agree.
Also on Friday, undefeated super-featherweight prospect Michael Roberts from Balornock will have his ninth contest, while former British youth champion Hugh Gray – one for the future, said coach Harrison – will make his professional debut at just 18.
Scott Harrison’s comeback is the main interest, however.
The heart hopes that he can prove all his doubters wrong before moving to a much bigger contest. The head says he can do it, too, but it’s what will happen inside Harrison’s head that will really matter.
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