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OLIVER HOLT'S COLUMN: Lockett's blood, sweat and fears shame Fraudley.

Byline: OLIVER HOLT

GARY 'The Rocket' Lockett walked into a big right hand in the second round. It broke his nose and sprayed a patchwork of blood over his face.

As the fight wore on, the tough little Russian light-middleweight squatting in front of him like a pit-bull snapped Lockett's head back every now and again with thudding hooks.

Gradually, Lockett's eyes began to close but the 25-year-old from Cwmbran could still hear exasperated yells of encouragement coming from surprised fans in the sell-out crowd at the Cardiff International Arena.

They had thought Lockett would win easily, that Yuri Tsarenko would be another routine scalp in a career shooting upwards towards the promise of world title fights.

Lockett had 16 wins in 16 fights until that point, 13 of them by knockout.

On Saturday night, he was chief support to Joe Calzaghe's title fight against Charles Brewer. Lockett was on the verge of making it to the big-time.

By the 12th round, Lockett could hardly see. Blood from his nose was running in rivulets down Tsarenko's back. Somehow, he survived another huge right and made it through to the bell.

A few minutes later, the fight doctor sat down in the seat next to me at ringside and started talking to a paramedic.

"He'll need the haematoma draining," he said, referring to the bag of blood swelling beneath the skin under Lockett's right eye. "It's a big one."

Lockett lost the fight. The judges gave it to Tsarenko on a split decision. Lockett went to the accident and emergency unit of the local hospital where they discovered he had broken a hand, too.

Maybe you might have heard of him if he had got that decision. His courage deserved it. Maybe now, you never will.

While Lockett and his career were making their way to casualty, Calzaghe and Brewer engaged in a 12-round toe-to-toe exhibition of courage and aggression that typified everything that is best about boxing.

After Calzaghe had won a convincing points victory, a triumph that cemented his growing reputation as the best pound-for-pound fighter in Britain, volunteers circulated in the audience collecting money for a memorial to Johnny Owen, the brave little Welsh fighter who died after a fight in America.

So when I got home in the early hours of the morning, still marvelling at the skill, the nobility and the raw bravery of what I had just seen, I should have known better than to rewind the tape whirring in the machine and hit the 'play' button.

The latest instalment of the grotesque travelling freak show of blubbery circus brawling that is Audley Harrison's idea of a career made me feel sick and angry.

Sick that Harrison, even by the normal standards of a man feeling his way into his career, should persist in betraying the spirit of boxing and the glory that is supposed to come with owning an Olympic gold medal.

And angry that the BBC should continue to allow Harrison the platform to defraud the licence-payers and drag boxing's reputation down into the gutter when signing him was supposed to help restore the sport in the public's affections.

Harrison's apologists - yes, amazingly, he does still have some - say that he is only learning his trade in boxing's time-honoured way and that he should be given time.

That argument might just about hold water if Harrison had the decency to show even a modicum of respect to the fall-guys wheeled in for him.

Or if he had done anything remotely like giving value for money for the pounds 1million the BBC paid him for a 10-fight deal. Or if we forgot that he is now past 30 and running out of time.

Or if the standard of his opponent was improving rather than going backwards so fast that he is rumoured to be considering Ronald McDonald as his next challenger.

The fact is that Lockett earned more honour in one brave defeat in Cardiff on Saturday night than Harrison, a cynical exploiter who thinks Sydney gold entitles him to a lifetime riding a gravy train, will ever gain.

After he had put Julius Long down in the second round of his fourth farcical contest, Harrison even had the gall to talk about class.

Class? Gary Lockett has got more class in one broken knuckle than Harrison has got in his entire bloated body.

If the BBC are serious about continuing to restore credibility to their sporting coverage, they should cut their losses, ditch Fraudley now and put some money behind a real British fighter.

I read recently that Evander Holyfield's Atlanta mansion contains 17 toilets, that Hasim Rahman's Baltimore pad has five.

Fraudley, meanwhile, seems intent on turning his own shambling career into one giant public convenience.

The BBC should follow their most famous dictat of recent times. They should take one last look at Audley Harrison and then cut the crap.

CAPTION(S):

CIRCUS ACT: Harrison and Long; ONE IN THE EYE FOR COURAGE: Gary Lockett's grotesque injuries were a testament to his brave battle in the ring
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 24, 2002
Words:846
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