Boxing: Harrison stays focused on Abelyan, not record books

Harrison stays focused on Abelyan, not record books

The Scotsman, UK
June 19 2004

HISTORY beckons Scott Harrison at the Braehead Arena tonight. The
priority for Scotland’s WBO featherweight champion, however, is
simply to ensure his ambition to become his country’s most successful
boxer of all time does not become a thing of the past.

There is undoubted danger in Harrison’s mandatory defence of his
title against William Abelyan. Promoters Sports Network, who have
packaged the fight as ‘Risky Business’, have made no secret of the
fact they would have preferred to avoid the American southpaw as they
attempt to steer Harrison towards more lucrative and career-defining

With no rematch clause in the contract, the Cambuslang man simply
cannot afford to suffer another loss in the manner of his shock
points defeat to Manuel Medina last July which he was able to
emphatically avenge four months later.

Since then, Harrison has stopped Colombian Walter Estrada, a late
replacement for Abelyan who called off injured from the
originally-scheduled meeting in March, to score his fourth victory in
five world-title fights. If he can overcome his Armenian-born
challenger tonight, Harrison will join Jim Watt in the record books
for the most successful world championship contests by a Scottish

Watt, who lifted the WBC lightweight title with a 12th-round stoppage
of Alfredo Pitalua in April 1979 and defended the belt four times
before losing to the brilliant Nicaraguan Alexis Arguello in June
1981, will be ringside tonight in his role as Sky Sports’ most cogent
boxing analyst.

He is willing his compatriot to succeed, unfazed by the apparent
resentment towards him from both the champion and his father and
trainer Peter Harrison in the wake of Watt’s criticism of the
performance last time out against Estrada.

Despite Harrison becoming the first man to stop the tricky Colombian
southpaw, an achievement this correspondent believes did not earn him
enough credit, Watt felt there were dangerous flaws in the
26-year-old’s display which could be exploited by a better opponent.

“I know the Harrison family aren’t too happy with me,” says Watt,
“but my honest view was that it was a bad performance against
Estrada. Although Scott was never in danger of losing, he got hit
with far too many silly punches in the first three rounds.

“I’m sorry if Scott and his dad are upset at what I said, but my job
is to call it as I see it. I can’t sit at ringside and ignore the
evidence of my own eyes just because Scott is Scottish. No-one has
given him more praise than I have since he started boxing on Sky and
no-one wants him to keep winning more than I do.”

To keep winning tonight, Harrison must solve the puzzle that is
25-year-old Abelyan, the North American champion who has lost just
four of his 28 fights since turning professional six years ago. He is
unbeaten since suffering a first-round loss to Victor Polo in January
2000, when he cited a stomach bug as the reason.

Nonetheless, as Polo later lost to Julio Pablo Chacon, the Argentine
dethroned by Harrison when he became champion in October 2002, it
would appear to be an encouraging form line for the Scot.

However, in reeling off 13 consecutive wins since the Polo defeat,
including an impressive points success over former WBC champion Guty
Espadas, Abelyan has earned his world-title shot and a reputation as
someone capable of making the best fighters look bad.

Jim Brady, the acerbic American correspondent of Boxing News, said
after Abelyan’s points win over veteran former WBA super-bantamweight
champion Jesus Salud in April 2002 that he “moved so much, they
should have had a lap counter in the ring”.

It is an indication of Abelyan’s elusive style, one which Brady
claims is “death at the box office”. When he knocked out Orlando Soto
in Las Vegas to win the North American title four months later, Brady
was moved to observe “he has a style only a mother could love, but
then she probably doesn’t have to pay to get in”.

Harrison, who weighed in four ounces inside the nine stone limit
yesterday, two ounces heavier than Abelyan, has no doubts his
challenger will be unable to avoid him for 12 rounds.

“He’s awkward, he jumps in and out,” said Harrison, “but I’m in
perfect shape and I will get to him. He doesn’t like to get hit to
the body and there are other weaknesses we have noticed. I just want
to get this guy out of the way, then move on to unify the belts.”

Watt, while anticipating a difficult night for Harrison, is confident
he will be joined in the record books by his fellow Glaswegian by the
end of the night. “Abelyan’s a good fighter, can adopt different
styles and will try and mess Scott about,” said Watt. “Scott has all
the physical advantages, though and as long as he controls the pace
of the fight, I see him winning well on points.”

I believe Harrison, as intensely motivated as he has ever been, will
force a stoppage somewhere around the tenth round.

• Willie Limond weighed in four ounces inside the super-featherweight
limit for his clash with French champion Youssef Djibaba for the
vacant European Union title. Live coverage of both fights from
Braehead begins at 8pm on Sky Sports 2.

• Audley Harrison defends his WBF heavyweight title tonight against
Poland’s Tomasz Bonin at Alexandra Palace in the last fight of his
contract with the BBC.