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Sport on TV: Punters ketchup with Audley.

Byline: ALAN McKINLAY

THE AMERICANS have a great description for no-hope boxers who are fodder for those on the up - tomato cans.

So it is appropriate that Audley Harrison's manager Colin McMillan has reluctantly canned his Olympic gold medallist's fight against Greg Wedlake.

It was scheduled for April 20 at the Wembley Conference Centre and, more importantly, due to be screened live on BBC1 that night.

But the British Boxing Board of Control have insisted that Wedlake, because of his limited ring experience, would have to fight over six two-minute rounds, or four rounds of three minutes. Leaving aside the fact that would still probably leave 11-and-a-half minutes spare for Harrison, that is clearly not the sort of stuff that should be served up on prime-time terrestrial television.

Nor, indeed, is he worth pounds 100,000 of licence payers' money.

"It is a shame, because one of the prime reasons for selecting Greg Wedlake was that it gave an undefeated British fighter the opportunity of making a name for himself," said McMillan.

How stupid does McMillan think the British public is?

Former publican Wedlake has had only one fight in the last four years. That's not many even for your average publican.

The toughest task in this latest Harrison controversy is working out who is being taken for the bigger ride.

Is it the BBC? They gave Harrison pounds 1million to screen his first 10 pro fights - most, if not all, of which will be against a series of tomato cans long past their sell-by dates.

Or is it you, me and the rest of the licence-paying public? After all, we have effectively financed Harrison's pro start.

The personable Audley should be congratulated on getting such a huge sum up front, with no quality control. But the Beeb's Director General Greg Dyke must surely have run out of his celebrated "cut the crap" cards when the corporation were negotiating the Harrison deal.

American TV companies Showtime and HBO, boxing's biggest investors, always have an input in choosing opponents for their marquee fighters. They get value for their own money.

The BBC, who have no say in who Harrison fights, are merely spending ours.

CAPTION(S):

HARRISON: Taking some easy pickings
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 16, 2002
Words:370
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