Boxing: Sparks fly between Harrison and Abelyan

Sparks fly between Harrison and Abelyan

The Scotsman, UK
June 18 2004

THERE is often far more heat than light generated at the traditional
head-to-head media conferences held in advance of championship boxing
fights, but it was certainly illuminating yesterday to witness Scott
Harrison’s brooding state of mind ahead of his WBO featherweight
title defence against William Abelyan tomorrow night.

As has been well documented over the past week, the Cambuslang boxer
is nursing a powerful sense of grievance over the court case which
eventually saw him cleared of an assault charge. Harrison’s contest
with mandatory contender Abelyan at the Braehead Arena offers him the
opportunity to express his frustration in the way he knows best and
to reinforce a positive public image after seeing his name painted
in such an unflattering manner.

Abelyan, the dangerous and awkward Armenian-born Californian southpaw
who claims the best featherweights in the United States have been
avoiding him, has done little to douse the smouldering attitude
Harrison will take into the ring with him tomorrow night.

Yesterday’s press gathering saw Harrison and Abelyan square up
aggressively as the champion reacted to the challenger’s comments
earlier this week. Abelyan was critical of Harrison’s performances
in his two-fight series with Manuel Medina last year, labelling
the Mexican an ‘old man’ and claiming he had knocked him down twice
in sparring.

“You are being disrespectful,” Harrison told Abelyan. “Medina is a
five-time world champion, a legend in boxing, and to call him an old
man and say things like that about him is definitely disrespectful.
You will get your day on Saturday.”

Don House, Abelyan’s trainer, had sparked Harrison into his unusually
animated verbal outburst when he interrupted the champion moments

“I’m not going to predict a round, but I can’t see it going 12 rounds,”
said Harrison. House, the man who guided Frankie Liles to the WBA
super- middleweight title in the 1990s, interjected with a taunt of
“You got that right, you ain’t going 12 rounds.”

Frank Maloney, Harrison’s manager, sat between the combatants with
a contented grin. Ticket sales for the fight were initially slow, so
this was the kind of publicity the promoters were hoping for. Perhaps
the biggest threat to Harrison will be if, in unleashing his fury and
pent-up resentment, he sacrifices levels of control and concentration
which are likely to be required to subdue Abelyan.

“I’m very angry about this fight,” agreed Harrison, “and what has
happened over the past few weeks has really fired me up. It’s going
to spur me on in the ring on Saturday.”

Abelyan, who has not fought since a third-round knockout of journeyman
Alejandro Mona on the Lennox Lewis-Vitali Klitschko undercard in Los
Angeles last June, maintains his inactivity will not be a factor.

“I train and spar with good fighters, with champions in the gym,” he
said. “People don’t want to fight me, what can I do? Listen, I’m in
my house when I’m in that ring, I’m a warrior. I’m going to destroy
the featherweight class once I win this belt from Harrison. He hasn’t
fought anyone like me before.”

Maloney, however, is convinced that ring rust will count against
Abelyan with Harrison having fought three times in the past 11
months. “Basically, I believe Abelyan and his people were scared of
losing the No 1 contender position and that’s why he’s not fought for
a year,” said Maloney. “He was holding out for the pay day but it will
be decisive on Saturday because Scott will be razor sharp in there.

“I know Abelyan says he isn’t worried about fighting away from home
but this is his first time outside the States and, if the Braehead
crowd get behind Scott like they have in the past, then Abelyan is
going to know exactly what passionate and hostile fans are like.”

The chief supporting contest tomorrow is an intriguing match for the
vacant EU super-featherweight title between popular Glaswegian Willie
Limond and French champion Youssef Djibaba.

The Scot, whose only loss in 21 contests was his British title defeat
at the hands of Alex Arthur a year ago, said: “That was a wake-up
call for me and I’ve learned from it.”