Audley Harrison believes he has recovered from ‘being a broken man’ and is ready to claim the European Heavyweight Championship.
Harrison, 38, saved his career by winning Prizefighter Heavyweights 3 in October and faces Poland’s Albert Sosnowski for the European belt on April 9 at London’s Alexandra Palace.
Former Olympic gold medalist Harrison hopes victory leads to a shot at a world title with the Klitschko brothers in his sights, although England’s WBA Champion David Haye is not on his radar.
“I’m not interested in David Haye,” said Harrison at a press conference held at The Dorchester in central London.
“All I’m interested in at the moment is Albert Sosnowski and he will not give up that belt easily. The worst thing I could do is look past Albert. If I can’t get past him then there’s nothing in the future.
“The heavyweight division is desperately looking for marque names and, no disrespect to David Haye, but no one in the US is talking about David Haye.
“They’re all talking about the Klitschkos and no one is giving David Haye any play as a World Champion so the guys I want to fight are the Klitschkos.
“If you get a chance against David Haye then people will say ‘you now have to beat the Klitschkos’, so if I beat Albert, I want the Klitschkos.”
Harrison claimed gold in Sydney in 2000 but four defeats in eight contests left his career in the balance before victory in Prizefighter kept his hopes alive.
However, Harrison, who has won 26 of 30 contests, admits he nearly walked away from the sport and almost gave up on his dream of winning a world title.
“I have a personal misson to be a world champion. Call me delusional or crazy but I call it reality,” added Harrison.
“When my contract with the BBC ended I lost my feel for boxing and the passion for boxing died. I left England and almost didn’t want to box as I was that disheartened - you saw that in my performances.
“I was a shell and I had no desire. I was a totally broken man and it took a long time to recover from that. It took a lot of soul-searching and I asked myself what I wanted to do and I said to myself I wanted to achieve my goals.
“I had to lick my wounds and go back to the drawing board. Ability gets you to the top but character keeps you there.
“I had certain characteristic flaws but it’s been part of my learning and journey. I wasn’t ready to be the next Lennox Lewis in 2004 and it was almost a blessing that I lost as I had a chance to grow through adversity.
“I’ve been through so much in my career but I’m still here, still believing, still persevering and that’s what character is. My moment of destiny is really close but I have a real obstacle in front of me.
“If he beats me to a pulp then I will know it’s over. If Albert Sosnowskis beats Audley Harrison fair and square then there will be no excuses as I’m 100 per cent physically, mentally and spiritually ready to win.
“Albert has been beaten before so there’s a blue print to beat him. With my skills and my ability you will see why I won an Olympic gold medal and why I was 19-0.
“I want to get my London fans in their St George’s T-shirts and I want to get nostalgic and hear chants of ‘Audley’, ‘Audley’, ‘Audley’.
“I want to hear the fans of boxing, the fans of Audley, the fans of perseverance and the fans of overcoming adversity and get back to boxing.”
Sosnowski, who is based in Brentwood, Essex, but originally hails from Warsaw, Poland, claimed the title with an emphatic points victory over Italian Paolo Vidoz in December.
However, 30-year-old Sosnowski is best known for a shock stoppage win in 2008 over Harrison’s long-term rival Danny Williams, the current British Champion and promises to bring with him an army of Polish supporters for the fight.
“I will be ready and I want to show my best,” said Sosnowski. “I have respect for Audley and he was Olympic Champion but I believe in myself and I will win this fight.”
Tickets cost £30 (unreserved) and £60 (ringside) and are available from www.seetickets.com or 0871 230 7148. The show will also be broadcast live on Sky Sports.