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DAVID HAYE announced his retirement from boxing today at the age of 37.
The former WBA heavyweight champion insisted he would stop fighting if he again lost to Tony Bellew in their rematch last month and, having shown significant signs of decline before being stopped in five rounds, he has confirmed he no longer plans to fight on.
Haye first announced his retirement in October 2011 on his 31st birthday, before a lucrative grudge match with Dereck Chisora the following summer tempted him to return.
He was also advised to retire following surgery on his right shoulder in November 2013 but returned in January 2016 to secure two unremarkable victories and then suffer his third and fourth professional defeats, both against Bellew.
“I became the first ever British boxer to unify the cruiserweight division,” said Haye. “I then achieved my childhood dream when I beat WBA heavyweight champion of the world Nikolai Valuev, the Beast from the East, in a real life David and Goliath match.
“Lifting that world heavyweight championship meant I’d fulfilled a promise I’d made to my mum Jane at the age of three. It also meant I was the second boxer in history, after Evander Holyfield, to win world titles at cruiserweight and heavyweight. That was an incredibly proud moment.
“In the end, what 20,000 fans inside London’s O2 Arena witnessed was me giving 100 per cent effort [against Bellew] but performing way below world level.
“For my fans, it must have been like going to support their favourite thoroughbred racehorse at the Grand National only to see their stallion stumble out of the gates like a sedated mule at the Donkey Derby.”
Haye admitted that, physically, he was not the fighter he was several years ago. “I saw punches coming but wasn’t quick enough to avoid them. I created openings but lacked the speed and agility to capitalise on them.
“Quick counter-attacks, the sort I’ve effortlessly thrown since my teenage years, are no longer in my armoury. When I take shots, they now shake me to my boots.”
Haye made his professional debut in 2002 and, despite suffering a surprise defeat to former world champion Carl Thompson in 2004, he went on to establish himself as one of the finest cruiserweights in history by travelling to Paris and climbing off the canvas to stop the dangerous Jean-Marc Mormeck in 2007, winning his first two world titles.
A third followed in March 2008 when Haye stopped Wales’s Enzo Maccarinelli, but it was after his subsequent move into the heavyweight division that he became one of Britain’s household names.
In travelling to Germany and overcoming a significant size disadvantage to defeat Valuev and claim the WBA title in November 2009, Haye enjoyed perhaps his greatest night.
Successful title defences followed against John Ruiz and Audley Harrison before he was outpointed in July 2011 by Wladimir Klitschko for the WBA, WBO and IBF titles in what was then the highest-profile heavyweight fight since Lennox Lewis’s victory over Mike Tyson in 2002.
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