LONDON (Reuters) - Former world heavyweight champion David Haye announced his retirement from the sport on Tuesday following his defeat by fellow Briton Tony Bellew in May.
The 37-year-old won 28 and lost four of his 32 fights since turning professional in 2002.
Londoner Haye won the WBA heavyweight title in 2009 when he out-pointed giant Russian Nikolai Valuev in the Nuremberg Arena to become Britain’s first world heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis in 2004.
Arguably his most memorable night came in 2007 when he beat France’s WBA and WBC world cruiserweight champion Jean-Marc Mormeck in Paris.
Haye fought Wladimir Klitschko in a heavyweight unification contest in 2011 but lost on a unanimous points decision after suffering a toe injury during the bout.
He only fought five times after the Klitschko defeat, his last two both ending in defeat by Bellew.
Haye will be remembered for putting spark into the heavyweight division with his dynamic style — and his ability to entertain and offend outside the ring.
In 2009, during a news conference to announce a title fight with Klitschko he arrived in a T-shirt depicting him holding the severed head of the Ukrainian and his brother Vitaly.
True to form the video statement announcing his retirement on Tuesday ran to more than 2,000 words, chronicling the many highs and lows of his 27 years in the sport.
"I'm proud of the battles I've been through. I'm proud, too, that I exit the battlefield happy and healthy, with my family financially secure," Haye said on his website www.hayemaker.com.
“Most importantly, I can reflect on it all with crystal clarity. The boxing Gods have spoken. They will no longer protect me with the freakish speed and power I used to possess. And without these God-given gifts, I completely lose my edge.”
The latter part of Haye’s career was notable mainly for the war of words with Bellew that erupted into a news conference punch-up in November, 2016. Bellew won the real fight in March the following year when Haye suffered an Achilles injury.
Bellew applauded Haye’s bravery and the build-up to the second contest between them in May was less fractious.
Haye was stopped in the fifth round.
“In the end, what 20,000 fans inside London’s O2 Arena witnessed was me giving 100 percent effort but performing way below world level,” he said.
“For my fans, it must have been like going to support their favorite thoroughbred racehorse at the Grand National, only to see their stallion stumble out the gates like a sedated mule at the Donkey Derby.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond