Audley Harrison announced his retirement from professional boxing yesterday on his official website.
Harrison became the first British fighter to win an Olympic gold medal in the super-heavyweight division when he was victorious at the 2000 Games in Sydney but he has flattered to deceive in the paid ranks. While he challenged for a world title, two first-round knockout defeats – the latest of which came against Deontay Wilder – in recent months have convinced the 41-year-old to end his career.
In a statement entitled “I’m Retiring”, he said: “There are only so many times you can fall before it becomes foolhardy to continue. I’ve fallen a lot, but winning the heavyweight title was a destination I really wanted to get to. Coming back from adversity has been synonymous with my life.
“I’ve done well to turn my life around, but sadly my dream to be a legitimate world champion will be unrealised.”
Harrison’s professional career arguably peaked when he challenged compatriot David Haye for the WBA heavyweight title in November 2010, although he was criticised in all quarters after appearing to freeze on the grandest stage before being stopped in the third round.
A devastating first-round defeat by David Price in October last year appeared to signal the end of the road for Harrison but he bounced back to win his second Prizefighter competition. However, another stunning knockout loss to Wilder on Saturday put the final nail in Harrison’s career.
He added: “I believed if I was mentally and physically right, I could figure these young guns out. Saturday was my final chance to prove it. The thing that pulled me up was pride, so I wanted a chance to continue and go out on my shield. It was not to be.”
Harrison, who turned professional to widespread attention after his historic success in Sydney and signed a seven-figure deal with the BBC to screen his first ten fights, finishes his career with a record of 31 wins and seven defeats. “Our life is a one-time deal, no rehearsals, so the regrets I have, I live with and accept... I got focused a little late in life, so I’ve had to learn some tough lessons along the way,” he said.
He won his first 19 bouts but started to attract negative headlines for the quality of his opposition.
When Harrison faced his first serious challenge as a pro, he was knocked down in the tenth round en route to a split-decision loss to Danny Williams in 2005. He suffered another setback against unheralded American Dominick Guinn before seeming to turn a corner when he savagely avenged his defeat by Williams with a third-round technical knockout victory.
But his first knockout loss to Michael Sprott in 2007 derailed his hopes of challenging for world honours once more.
Harrison would later gain a measure of revenge when he defeated Sprott for the European heavyweight title.