LONDON — Audley Harrison and Amir Khan emerged from the Olympic Games (Harrison in 2000 and Khan in 2004) as conquering heroes to a nation of Brits. Harrison won the Heavyweight Gold Medal, while Khan, now campaigning at Lightweight, won a Silver Medal.

Khan, the fresh-faced 20-year-old from nearby Bolton, is still undefeated and widely perceived as the next superstar from across the pound.

Harrison (22-3 16 KOs) was once Britain’s superstar-in-waiting. That all changed when the BBC dropped him from his lucrative television contract. To compound matters, he then lost consecutive fights to Danny Williams and Dominick Guinn. At that point, Harrison’s career, much like his BBC contract, was torn to shreds. After knocking out Williams in a rematch this past December, Harrison reemerged as a player in the Heavyweight division.

After being knocked out in the third round on a single left hook courtesy of British veteran Michael Sprott (30-10 15 KOs), any delusions of future heavyweight superstardom were thrown out the window.

In the first round, it was Harrison who dictated the pace of the action, knocking Sprott back a few times with digging hooks to the body. At the end of the stanza, Harrison knocked Sprott down with a left hand.

Sprott, though, did not appear fazed by the knockdown.

“You saw that I got right back up,” Sprott said. “I carried on. I was ready for him.”

In the second round, Harrison suddenly became tentative, pawing harmlessly with his jab. Sensing Harrison’s tentativeness, Sprott went the offensive. He stunned Harrison with a big right hand near the end of the second.

In the third, as Harrison lunged in, Sprott connected on a picturesque left hook to the jaw. Harrison crumpled in a 254-pound heap, hitting the canvas face-first. Referee Richard Davis immediately waved off the bout, giving Sprott the biggest win of his career.

“That was probably the best left hook I’ve thrown,” Sprott said.

Despite the victory, the humble Sprott did not feel the need to boast.

“I’m not a big-headed guy,” Sprott said. “I’m a down to earth kind of guy. I’m just ready for the next challenge

Sprott’s next challenge is a rumored rematch with fellow Brit Matt Skelton. Skelton knocked out Sprott in the 12th round of their 2004 contest.

For Harrison, it appears as if the London native has hit the end of the line. Unlike Frank Bruno, who won the hearts of British fans despite his vast limitations, Audley Harrison never won over the British public.

When Sprott’s left hand crumpled him to the canvas, an uproarious cheer reverberated throughout the arena. The conquering Olympic hero was no more. With his third loss professional loss, the bandwagon officially emptied.

Katsidis Outlasts Earl in “Fight of the Year” War

A slugfest was a near certainty when Graham “The Duke Of” Earl (25-2 12 KOs) and Michael Katsidis (22-0 20 KOs) entered the ring. Katsidis, the undefeated Aussie, came out to vigorous jeers from the partisan crowd. Earl, from nearby Luton, emerged to a thunderous ovation.

When this potential fight of the year ended after five exhilarating rounds, the pre-fight hostilities did not matter. All of those in attendance realized they were in the presence of pugilistic brutality at its bloody best.

The two came out slugging in the opening stanza, as Katsidis landed a couple of huge uppercuts on the inside. Towards the end of the round, a right hand stung Earl, as the Brit crumpled to the canvas. A follow-up combination sent The Duke to the canvas again, but Vann’s ridiculously slow count allowed to Earl to survive the round.

Katsidis charged out in 2nd, hurt Earl, and dropped him with a right hand. Earl’s corner threw in the towel, but Vann ignored the request and threw the towel back over the ring apron. As Katsidis (obviously confused by what had just transpired) went in for the kill, Earl landed a perfectly timed counter shot that dropped Katsidis. Katsidis, unsteady on his feet, came back to rally near the end of the round.  

By the third, Katsidis appeared to get his legs back. At the end of the round, Vann deducted a point from the Australian for repeated low blows.

The first three rounds were an appetizer for the frantic fourth. Earl had his back to the ropes for nearly the entire stanza, as Katsidis landed combination after combination. Whenever it looked as if Vann was ready to step in and stop the contest, Earl fired back some short combinations of his own. By that point, one thing was evident: Earl had nothing left. But somehow, someway, the beleaguered Earl was able to fight fire with fire. The crowd, which had jeered Katsidis as he entered the ring, rose in appreciation at the efforts of both men

Earl trudged back to his corner in a zombie-like state. By the start of the fifth, Earl’s eyes were glassed over, his arms were slumped at his side and his once clean-cut face looked like it had been run over by a Range Rover. Katsidis, on the other hand, hopped off his stool, ready to finish off his stubborn opponent.

Once again, Earl found a reservoir of energy and controlled the first half of the fifth round with his right hand. But his tank was on empty as the round came to a close, and Katsidis once again pounded his foe against the ropes. After the fifth ended, Earl gingerly walked back to his corner. Earl’s cornermen looked into the eyes of their charge: they saw a thoroughly beaten man. Earl, on his last legs, slumped back in his corner and accepted his fate. This time, Vann acknowledged the wishes of the corner, and the book was closed on this British classic.

While this fight was for another one of those bogus “interim” belts, both men fought like legitimate world champions. When it is all said and done, this fight is the early frontrunner for fight of the year. It was as brutal as it was brilliant, the type of battle that obliterates brain cells and shortens career. Now, Katsidis has emerged with a sanctioning body belt and a claim as one of the top Lightweights in the world. All that world title nonsense matters little because the efforts of both men were downright heroic. In the scheme of things, fighters fight because they born to throw leather. On a February evening in London, when the stories were supposed to be Audley Harrison and Amir Khan, Graham Earl and Michael Katsidis put on a show for the ages. Isn’t that what boxing is all about?

Khan Racks Up a Quick Victory

In the time it takes microwave a burrito, Amir Khan upped his record to 11-0, knocking out Mohammed Jedjadi 55 seconds into the opening round of a scheduled 8-round fight.

Khan immediately was focused on the midriff of the Frenchman, pawing with a snappy jab. Before many emerged from their bathroom breaks, Khan landed a crushing overhand right on Jedjadi’s jaw. Jedjadi rose on unsteady feet and was in no position to continue.

“I think it was one of the best punches I’ve thrown as a professional,” Khan would say after the fight. “I timed it perfectly. I think that’s the key.”

For Khan, who is going to make his American television debut featured on the undercard of Joe Calzaghe’s title defense against Peter Manfredo, it was just another day—albeit a brief one—at the office.

Khan and promoter Frank Warren have their sites set on conquering America… eventually.

“The great ones like Joe Calzaghe and everyone… they have gone to America,” Khan said. “I want to do that as well.”

Warren pointed out that Khan, at 20 years of age, is in no rush to fight for a professional title.

“I’m going to go back to the gym and train for another 8-round fight,” Khan said.

Khan will now be campaigning at Lightweight after instead of Junior Welterweight. According to Warren, no opponent has yet to be solidified for Khan’s HBO debut.

Undefeated Small Cruises to Victory

Undefeated Junior Middleweight Anthony Small (16-0 11 KOs) did what he was supposed to do against a limited bruiser like Sergei Starkov (16-40-2 2 KOs): win.

The immediate difference in class was evident, as Small knocked Starkov down in the first round on a looping overhand right. While Small routinely kept his hands below his waist, it mattered little. Starkov was content to lean against the ropes and let Small pound him at will. Whether Small boxed orthodox or switched to southpaw, Starkov acted as little more than a human punching bag.

At 2:16 of the fourth round, as Starkov continued to be peppered by power punch after power punch, the slaughter was finally stopped. Starkov was not visibly shaken, but the accumulation of punishment was heavy enough to warrant a stoppage.

Other Results:

Undefeated Welterweight Grant Skehill scored a decision victory over Duncan Cottier in a 4-round contest. Referee Richard Davis, as well as The Sweet Science, scored the bout 39-37

Undefeated Welterweight Eddie Corcoran (2-0) pounded out a 4-round decision against career loser Peter Buckley (31-237-11 8 KOs). That was the 30th consecutive defeat for Buckley, who has not won a fight since 2003.

British Featherweight Vinny Mitchell had a successful professional debut, winning a 4-round decision over Shaun Walton (2-13-2). Referee Richard Davis, as well as The Sweet Science, scored the contest 40-36.

Welterweight Ross Minter (17-1-1 8 KOs), son of former Middleweight champion Alan Minter, knocked out Sasha Shnip (19-14 10 KOs) in the second round.