Boxing


Scott Harrison, Howard Eastman and the State of British Boxing

24.02.05 - By Frank Maloney: So far this year we've seen the first of the big fights between a super champion and challenger ending in victory for the champion, in this case Bernard Hopkins decisioning Howard Eastman in Los Angels last weekend. I never watched the fight because I always felt it was going to be a one horse race. The post fight reports I've read in the paper confirmed my hunch. Eastman is now screaming that Hopkins ran away from him, but isn't Hopkins the champion? It's up to him to fight his type of fight and for the challenger to rise up and take the title. When you get the opportunity to fight for a world title you have to put everything on the line. In all likelihood, you'll only get one opportunity in your career and you must grab it with both hands. Howard Eastman was fortunate enough to have had two such opportunities in his career but has let both slip through his grasp..

I worked with Howard for a long time, and I can tell you that he didn't lose those fights because he's a bad fighter. On the contrary, but Howard likes to fight at a certain pace and tries to dictate the action according to that pace. Unfortunately, world class fighters like Hopkins and William Joppy won't let you do that, so you must have a plan B. Howard Eastman didn't have a plan B and he also didn't risk laying everything on the line. He was fortunate to have a second opportunity at a world title but we all know that third chances are awfully hard to come by in this unforgiving business.

A few weeks ago we saw Scott Harrison get a draw in a fight that many people may have thought he lost. Regardless of whether you thought Scott won or lost his tile defense against Victor Polo, one thing you can say about Harrison is that he stepped his efforts up and rose to the occasion when he was told that everything was one the line in the last round. Despite suffering bad facial damage he went to work and you can honestly say he put everything on the line. Through sheer force of will and effort in the 12th, Scott managed to secure a draw and at the same time retain his title. This proves beyond all doubt that Scott Harrison has the heart of a champion.

There was talk of Scott meeting Juan Manuel Marquez this spring, but unfortunately we were unable to come to terms. I've read many comments by fight fans on web site forums where they say things such as "why shouldn't Scott take less money?" I would honestly like to ask people out there if they were offered less money to continue doing the job they're doing now, would they agree to that? Scott Harrison has a contract and in that contract, it stipulates that he earns a specific amount of money per fight. I asked, on the exchange rate, for Top Rank to match what we had in that contract. They were unable to do so due to their deal with Marquez.

Why should I put my man in for a lot less when he also holds a version of the world title? I can already hear the anoraks screaming that Scott's getting a chance. Scott Harrison doesn't need to get a chance. He has already proved himself and every time a fighter steps into the ring he puts his career and life on the line. It is the job of a fighter's manager to get him as much as possible for a fight and under the most favorable terms. Soon there will be a press conference where we'll announce that Harrison will fight at the end of May or in June. Marquez will fight someone else while Top Rank and myself have agreed to talk at a later date to see if we can get nearer the financial figures that both fighters want for this fight.

If I had taken the Marquez fight based on what was offered I would not be doing my job as Scott's manager. I've had many rows since turning this down but I will not change my stance. My job is to protect my fighter and get them what they think they deserve along with what I believe they deserve. This is no different than the case of Injin Chi turning down the offer we made to him to fight Scott. And let me say the offer we made to Chi was a lot higher than the offer made to us to fight Marquez. I am confident we will get a big fight for Harrison before the end of the year and in the meantime we will watch the featherweight division with great interest.

Here in Britain, the other night Maloney Promotions brought back the exciting former WBU and Commonwealth Light Heavyweight champion Tony Oakey. It was his first fight in 16 months and he came through a couple of sticky patches to record a 5th round stoppage. Because of his inactivity, Oakey is still 3 or 4 fights away from the level he was at before he was banned from the sport but time is not on his side. I was a little bit disappointed in the shape in which he came into the ring and if Tony really wants to get back to the top he's got to dedicate himself over the next year or he will get left behind. There are a number of good fights out there for him but he's not ready for them at the moment. He will be out again on April 15th in Portsmouth and I look forward to seeing him better prepared for the hard work ahead.

But I will say this; there is something magic about an Oakey night in Portsmouth. Unless you experience it first hand you'll never understand just what it's like. The crowd generates a certain excitement, a certain hysteria and a certain mystique. They can be very hostile towards the opponent, which obviously works to Tony Oakey's advantage, but to hear them sing their theme song, the Oakey Kokey, it makes you realize that boxing is much like a theater with blood.

Speaking of an audience getting behind a fighter, or not, as may be in this case, on the same bill as Howard Eastman's title challenge was Junior Witter, a fighter who many British fans can't make up their mind about. He went over to America but I'm lead to believe that he wasn't even shown on the HBO telecast. Witter didn't do a lot to excite the British television audience and I am sure that knowing the Americans as I do, they won't take to his style either. In the near future, Junior may find himself on the undercard of quite a few Golden Boy Promotion fights, but the interesting matchup for him down the road will be a contest with Arturo Gatti. Although it remains to be seen if that fight can be made, I know who will be getting the short end of the purse during those negotiations.

Frank Maloney - www.frankmaloney.com

Article posted on 25.02.2005



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