LONDON (Reuters) - Audley Harrison staggered out of boxing's last chance saloon as European heavyweight champion and reborn contender on Friday after a last-round knockout of fellow Briton Michael Sprott for the vacant title.
Well behind on all three scorecards and seemingly heading for career oblivion 10 years on from his super-heavyweight gold medal at the Sydney Olympics, the 38-year-old sent his opponent crashing to the canvas with a lethal left.
"It feels absolutely great," said Harrison, who fought southpaw from the second of the 12 rounds after locking his shoulder and has won 27 fights with four defeats.
"I just had to switch and I was ineffective on that side because I never trained on that side, never fought on that side, but I said losing wasn't an option. I had to find it some way, somehow," he told Sky television.
"That shows how much I wanted to be European champion, I wanted to keep my career," added Harrison, who had said before the fight that victory could put him closer to a world title fight against one of the Ukrainian Klitschko brothers than Britain's WBA world champion David Haye.
Derided as 'Fraudley' and 'Audrey' in the past for limp-wristed and lackluster performances, the towering Harrison was booed at times by a crowd clearly behind his plucky opponent.
He may have the last laugh however, with his new-won status reviving his faint hopes of a world title shot at a time when retirement seemed his more likely destination.
"I definitely proved that I want to remain in boxing," he said.
"With one hand really I found a shot that made me a European champion, gave me a top 10 rating in the WBC."
(Editing by Ken Ferris)