“Ballroom Is Perfect Training For My Boxing Comeback” OTB Talks To Strictly’s Audley

After taking a beating from David Haye last year, many thought that Audley Harrison might be hanging up his boxing gloves for good. But the former-Olympic champion has explained that Strictly Come Dancing could be the perfect platform for him to relaunch his career as a fighter.

“I’ll definitely be returning to the ring after this,” he tells us confidently. “The show has been a great way of getting myself back in shape, I’ve lost a stone already and all the work on my toes is perfect for boxing. In 2012 I will be returning for one more shot. If I have any more losses I’m done, but there’s such a dearth of talent at the top level that if you win one fight you could get a shot at the world title.”

Some of those who watched his rather one-sided bout against Haye might suggest that Harrison might do better staying on the dance-floor, but while the Southpaw from North London admits that the defeat last November was the ‘worst performance of his career’, he reckons Strictly has put him back in the spotlight.

“Obviously coming off this show, my profile’s back in place, Strictly has served a purpose for me. I haven’t been on Lorraine for 10 years and I was on there last week! This show has opened lots of doors and it will help me get the right fight when I come back next year, because I can’t retire like I did, that fight wasn’t representative of me. I think I deserve to go back and see what I have left..”

Audley and his family have been based in America for some years now but he’s been chatting with his wife on Skype every day and even made the trip home last month to walk his daughter to school for the first time. Apparently he’s turned Strictly down three times in years gone by, yet after watching some other boxers step into sequinned shirts on both sides of the Atlantic, he decided the time was right to throw some shapes.

Strictly Come Dancing and America’s Dancing With The Stars have become acceptable for boxers in recent years. Over here we’ve had Joe Calzaghe – one of the best champions this country has ever produced, in America you’ve seen Floyd Mayweather, Evander Holyfield, Larry Holmes. I’ve been invited before, but this is the first time I’ve had space for it..”

“Most of my family live in London and my dad’s already been twice, my brothers weren’t sure but now they want to come down with their kids,” he explains. “I thought some people might have given me a hard time for coming on the show – I would have given someone a hard time for coming on the show back in the day – but it’s become acceptable, even for some of my little rude-boy friends. The show’s so high profile that you’re almost untouchable.”

Harrison only started boxing at the age of 19 and was something of a tearaway as a teenager, getting himself expelled from two schools and ending up in a young offenders institute. “I rose up from the ashes and decided to make something of my life,” he tells us. “I won a gold medal in Sydney and got an MBE a year later. It just shows you what you can do with a bit of fire, determination and grit – things a lot of people say I don’t have. I started boxing late. Haye and Hatton and the rest were in boxing gyms from the age of nine. I would have achieved a lot more if I’d started when they did..”

Harrison may have been a late developer in the ring, but he certainly seems to have timed his ballroom debut to perfection, with Strictly Come Dancing having one of its best years to date in terms of ratings. There’s even a former Prime Minister among the audience says Audley..

“Everyone I speak to loves the show! Just last week I bumped into John Major at a dinner and he said he’d been watching. I’m not sure what he made of Edwina Curry’s dancing though..”