AFTER a long and storied career, 43-year-old Audley Harrison has been forced to admit the dream is over.
The heavyweight, who has not fought since losing to Deontay Wilder in one round in April 2013, had been planning another comeback but results from medical tests have persuaded him not to fight again.
“I am no longer a professional boxer, and that is good with me,” he said in a statement. “After locking myself away for the last five weeks, I’ve tried to focus and turn back the clock to get myself into fighting condition.
“I’ve also seen specialists for my brain, eyes and various other experts to test my body functions in regards to strength, power, speed, reaction time, cognitive function and agility.
“Additionally, I looked at the latest research into concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). After years of denial and sticking to my guns, I’m finally getting out of my own way.
“I’ve suffered a few TBIs and will have to work hard to reverse some of the effects taking punches to the head has brought about to my overall health.
“I have vision problems, vestibular issues that lead to balance disturbances, and have serious bouts of irritability and moodiness that comes with TBI recovery.”
It all began so brightly for Harrison who won Olympic gold in Sydney 2000 – a triumph that triggered huge funding in amateur boxing – and he turned professional in front of 6m BBC viewers. But the television deal (worth £1m for the first 10 fights alone) ended after the interest in Harrison cooled. In 2004 he was 17-0 but was thought to be stepping too softly, and infrequently, towards the top when the agreement was severed.
A 2005 upset loss to Danny Williams was swiftly followed by defeat to Dominick Guinn and his career – although it remained in the limelight – looked likely to fall short of expectation from that point on.
There were successes of course. He thrashed Williams in a rematch, won two Prizefighter titles, and avenged another defeat to Michael Sprott via thrilling and last ditch knockout. That latter triumph earned him the European title and set up a shot at then-WBA champion David Haye in 2010. But he was thumped inside three farcical rounds. Savage one-round losses to David Price and Wilder were still to come.
Harrison, intelligent, articulate and engaging, never had trouble selling a fight but admitted he will be forced to file for bankruptcy in the UK. The London-born star currently resides in California.
“I’ve made many mistakes, and learned some tough lessons along the way,” he said. “I made tons of money and splurged lots of it away with reckless money management, immaturity and a desire to build my empire like Tony Montana.
“Thankfully, my wife Raychel (God bless her for real) started a hair salon business and threw chunks of money into real estate, but I’ll still likely have to file for bankruptcy in the UK. Thankfully, I invested in a pension while living in the UK, so that will be good when I’m much older.
“Without my boxing income, I will not be able to pay the huge tax bill I pay each year to satisfy the film partnership I invested into in 2004, and en-cashed my investment by 2009. The hefty tax bill each year does not finish until 2022.”
Harrison intends to train young fighters and hopes to set up an agency that offers boxers financial advice.
“If I’m to achieve my goal of becoming a world champion,” he said. ‘It will now have to be as a trainer and manager to a bright young star, who will hopefully learn from my mistakes, rather than learning from his or her own.”
For all his mistakes – and there were plenty – Harrison was good for British boxing, generating interest where others failed, and creating an amateur platform that spawned success for the likes of Amir Khan, James DeGale and Anthony Joshua. It is too easy to forget that he was an Olympic champion, and those that booed him incessantly and aggressively in later years – while he wore the colours of his country – should have more respect.
His European win over Sprott was worthy of Hollywood, and in interviews he was always truly engaging. Boxing News wish him all the best for the future.