Boxing: Harrison vs Abelyan: Cometh the hour cometh the man?

Harrison vs Abelyan: Cometh the hour cometh the man?
June 18 2004

18.06.04 – Gavin Macleod: The true greats in every sport are the select
few, who in the face of their toughest challenge, can rise to the
occasion and produce their finest performance. Michael Jordan could
always find something special when playing in NBA Finals, Zinedine
Zidane finds his best form when playing in soccer’s biggest games
and Muhammad Ali dug deep into his bag of tricks to outfox George
Foreman in Kinshasa Zaire all that time ago.

To men like the aforementioned winning is everything, and they have
that special talent that can see them come through situations that
they are not expected to. This Saturday WBO featherweight champion
Scott Harrison is hoping to prove that against William “The Conqueror”
Abelyan, in the potentially toughest contest of his career, he can
rise to the occasion and produce a performance to elevate him into the
division’s upper echelons alongside men such as Juan Manuel Marquez
and Manny Pacquiao.

Hometown hero Harrison will be making the second defence of his second
reign as champion in front the adoring Scottish supporters at Glasgow’s
Braehead Arena, who as always will provide the strident support that
has become as much a feature of Harrison’s performance’s as his
relentless pressure and supreme strength. But this is no ordinary
fight for Harrison.

Having being delayed since last March, once due to Abelyan injuring a
shoulder and once due to Harrison damaging ligaments in his right arm
whilst doing pull-ups in the gym, this fight has had time to build
up into what has now become a must see contest between two fighters
that have spent the past three months having their respective digs at
one another. Not only that but the representative’s from both camps,
namely Harrison’s manager Frank Maloney and Abelyan’s manager Gary
Shaw. have also engaged in a war of words that has helped build up
the tension in the media on both side’s of the pond.

This is not usually a feature of Harrison’s make-up as he generally
makes comments to the effect of his fists doing the talking but on
this particular occasion it would seem that his opponent has genuinely
got under his skin. Now you couple that with the assault charge that
Harrison has just been cleared of and you have a champion with a score
to settle with his opponent and also with a renewed focus and drive,
having seen the threat of his title being revoked squashed by Sheriff
Rae Small’s not guilty verdict clearing him of any wrong doing.

American based Armenian Ableyan will be no soft touch however,
and has what many people believe to be the wrong style for the
champion being a southpaw and a “mover”. He has a slate of 23-4-1
(12) that could be misleading as three of these defeats came in
his first nine fights and one of them was a ten round points loss
against the former IBF featherweight champion Hector Lizarraga which
represents no shame at all. The fourth loss though does give cause
for concern. Back in January of 2000 Abelyan faced up to the always
tough and rugged Columbian Victor Polo, and was a step up for “The
Conqueror” but nobody would have expected him to be blown away inside
a round against an opponent who was never regarded as a big hitter.

Conversely, Abelyan’s form since that defeat has been something
to take note of as he has rattled of thirteen successive victories
against some well respected opponents. He outpointed the six time
world title challenger Jesus Salud over ten rounds in 2002 and also
stopped another hardened former world title challenger when stopping
Orlando Soto in the tenth round, four months later.

Undoubtedly his biggest win came in what was his biggest fight against
former WBC world champion Guty Espadas Jnr. Southpaw Abelyan came
in at four days notice and dropped his opponent in the sixth and
eighth round, which all went to bringing him a unanimous ten round
decision. More impressive was that it was not long after Espadas had
just lost a very close twelve rounder against the exceptional Mexican,
Erik Morales.

Harrison has never admitted his distaste for southpaws but it is a
common feature in all orthodox fighters to not enjoy fighting against
the games “lefty’s”. However, the five tough rounds he got in against
Abelyan’s March date replacement, Walter Estrada, will have aided
the champion’s preparations considerably. The Columbian seemed to
have come to fight and his power and shots from the southpaw stance
gave Harrison problems early on, as at times Harrison seemed to be
momentarily stunned by his opponents stinging shots through the middle.

Harrison, 21-2-1 (11) is a true warrior though and eventually got
out of his slow start to crank up a few gears, using his strength to
bully his opponent back and attack his body. This worked wonders as
in round five Estrada seemed to have lost interest in a fight that had
now swung firmly out of his favour. He did give the champion food for
thought and gave him invaluable experience against a tough southpaw
for five rounds and it will be experience that Team Harrison will be
hoping to utilise for the impending contest with the Armenian.

Abelyan in essence has the ability to give Harrison problems and has
shown against Espadas that he has a lot of ability and could well
be on his way to making strides in this division. His quick hands
and good jab will surely be used with an aim to stick and move on
Harrison as standing toe-to-toe with the Scot could prove suicidal
when thinking back to the Polo fight. Indeed I wouldn’t expect the
fight to go very far should the challenger follow through with is
claim of “going to war” with Harrison.

There are other negative sides to Abelyan. The Espadas victory
however should not be the sole focus Abelyan’s achievements as it
is not improbable that Espadas took the fight very lightly against
the then unknown Armenian. Abelyan won a majority ten round decision
against the tough Armando Cordoba but this is over-shadowed by latest
Harrison victim Estrada, who knocked Cordoba cold in three rounds.
Alarmingly in his second last outing, against Jose Luis Tula, Abelyan
was in major trouble and taking some hard shots in the final round
of a fight he won via a unanimous twelve round decision.

Harrison is a relentless come forward fighter, hence leading to
Abelyan’s labelling him “a robot” but his sheer size and strength
could see him be too much for Abelyan who is also hindered in this
fight by a one year absence from the ring. While Abelyan’s speed
and southpaw stance could be the key to unlock the Cambuslang mans
title belt from around his waist, there are question marks around
his punch resistance and stamina, both of which can not be doubted
when talking about Harrison. After taking his usual residence in the
Scottish mountains and rehabilitating his injured ligaments with some
underwater therapy in the Hampden Sports complex Harrison should be
in the best condition of his career as he now reaches his peak years.

The key to this fight will be Harrison’s ability to cut off his
opponent, trap him in a corner or on the ropes and then unloading
with his two handed, high volume punch combinations. I would expect to
see Abelyan pick off Harrison for the first four rounds, but holding
off Harrison is like using a sponge bat to fend off a wild bull and
hence I believe Harrison will begin to catch up with his man before
taking a firm grip on the contest and halting his man in or around
the tenth round.

One thing is certain though, that for Harrison to get the unification
mega fights that he has his sights set on, he needs to prove that like
the greats in every sport, he is capable of producing his finest when
the time comes.