Joe Rein Writings


Harrison: Contender or Pretender?
"A-Force" TKO's Davis in 7

For a few seconds, Americans saw the promise of undefeated 2000 British Olympic Super Heavyweight Champion, Audley "A-Force" Harrison...and a spark in a division on life support. It was sudden, decisive and destructive. A final whistling left, of a series, in the seventh round sent Robert Davis sprawling across the ring, tangled in the ropes like a marionette. Referee Raul Caiz saved the journeyman at 2:21.

Harrison's appearance in the TV main-go against Davis on FSN's "Best Damn Sports Show Period", with James Toney as a guest, was supposed to kick-start his career, especially if a clip circled the globe of a flare-up with Toney.

If there was an erector set for matchmakers, Davis would have been built for Harrison: good sized, punched creditably -- 16 of 31 wins by KO -- names like Michael Moorer, and Monte Barrett on his resume -- competitive but not impregnable - a target.

The 6'6", 254, Harrison didn't start against Davis to exploit the showcase. There was a zip code between them, as the southpaw, Harrison, circled left, cautiously.

Davis pressed forward -- hands high and tight -- chin tucked in -- like a mechanical fighter in an arcade game, trying to get past "A-Force's" jab and find a home for his hook. But Harrison kept sliding off behind the lance

Though there was but an inch difference in their reach, Harrison's jab stretched across the ring.

Suddenly, Davis looked up from the canvas. A quick, stiff jab - or tangled feet - deposited him. The ref ruled it a knockdown, despite Davis's protestations.

In the second, Davis shuffled forward purposefully, but without any answers to the riddle. The bout settled in to a dull recital, more befitting a surgical theater than a fight arena. The silence was deafening - only the odd shout for more action roused those nodding off. It had all the enjoyment of Chinese water torture. 'What kind of a statement did Harrison think he was making?'

"The fight's tonight!" cracked a photog on the ring apron. The most colorful thing about Harrison was the canary yellow and scarlet of his fringed trunks.

Harrison brought lots of attitude to pre-fight interviews. But, by the end of round six, he appeared more bark than bite - a less frenetic Larry Donald. Worst of all: dull.

It was true: 'You can't judge a book by its cover.'

The only reason the media wouldn't savage him: Raining on a parade doesn't come easy after the kind of buffet Pechanga layed out for the press.

In the seventh, Harrison was vindicated. The 27 minutes of sleepwalking was forgiven, with an exclamation point. A killer heavyweight replaced the choral conductor.

Harrison found his opening -- crashed four punches to Davis's head, turning his legs to string. He stumbled across the ring, drunk -- the ropes saving him from a judge's lap. The ref stopped it immediately.

That flash of power reminded why heavyweight was once the premier division. It erased the excruciating six rounds previous.

After Harrison's arm was raised, the man who towered over most in the arena disappeared in a sea of euphoric scarlet and yellow at center ring. Harrison scrambled through the scrum and bounded down the steps, brushing past the microphones of eager reporters -- with an imperial wave of his hand -- and made a beeline for more important exposure on TBDSSP

Harrison's trainer, Thell Torrance, explained Audley's puzzling strategy of consistently moving left into Davis' power. "Davis is a natural left hander," he said, " He knows how to fight southpaws. If you watch his old fights, he throws a pretty durn good hook. What we were attempting was: Step over to Davis's right side -- to cut him off - make him lead when he was off balance, and get off combinations."

Mission accomplished.

Harrison carries himself as if his coronation is Manifest Destiny. The big question is: In a division full of sequoias, how does he take the kind of punishment he dished out? He didn't show any enthusiasm to provide an answer.

He may be the next Herbie Hide, but at least he's on the radar and worth watching. What we know is: His intensity doesn't match his agility, so we don't know if his vision is a mirage.

But as a salesman, he's got it down: He knows how to close.

Johnson-Diaz, hvywt, 10 rnds

In an attempt to get his career back on track after a broken hand and torn pec, Kirk Johnson fought the semi-windup. He had too much for Yanqui Diaz. But it wasn't the seminal outing to regain the heat of his KO's over Lou Savarese and Oleg Maskaev.

One good sign was, at 246, Johnson was 14 pounds less than when he folded against Vitali Klitschko. He had too much hand speed, too many tools and ring savvy for the bulked-up 232-pounder from Cuba.

At the bell, Diaz and Johnson challenged for territory at mid ring. Diaz blinked first. Johnson's jabs and straight rights to the body established he was the Alpha.

Diaz's prayer was a pawing jab and a long, overhand right - it almost came from Cuba. It had bad intentions, but never came close to landing. Without his Hail Mary, Diaz was stripped of a weapon

In the second, Johnson was penalized a point -- without a warning -- for a low blow. Diaz writhed on the canvas in the fetal position. He didn't look like he'd get up...and if he did; he'd surely have no fight in him. His face was contorted in pain when he slowly got up. The ref gave him time to recuperate.

Johnson decisively won every round, mixing it up to the head and body. He hit Diaz low again in the third, but didn't get penalized.

Johnson was landing unanswered straight rights to the body. Not only did they rack up points, they sapped Diaz's reserves. It was thump, thump, thump.

In the fifth, Johnson knocked a weakened Diaz down twice with sharp right uppercuts. They cracked heads at the end of the round;

Diaz streamed blood from a Grand Canyon gash on his forehead. Between rounds, the doctor examined it and ruled he shouldn't continue. Johnson was awarded a technical decision, 49-42, 49-42, 49-43.

A little like kissing your sister, but a W's a W.

[back to top]