Boxing: Olympic gold medalist Audley Harrison announces retirement

Two first-round knockout defeats in recent months have convinced the 41-year-old to end his career

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The Independent Online

Audley Harrison has announced his retirement from professional boxing on his official website.

Harrison came into the paid ranks with the world at his feet after becoming 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.

The wave of euphoria quickly died down, however, and he unfairly became the laughing stock of British boxing in recent years after flattering to deceive on several occasions in the ring.

His first round stoppage loss against Deontay Wilder was Harrison's seventh defeat in 38 bouts and one that convinced him to call time on his career.

In a statement on his official website entitled "I'm Retiring", the 41-year-old 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 against 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 against Wilder in Sheffield on Saturday put the final nail in the much-maligned Harrison's career.

"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," he added.

"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.

Harrison won his first 19 bouts without much fuss although he was already starting to attract negative headlines for the quality of opposition he was facing.

When Harrison faced his first serious challenge as a professional, he was knocked down in the 10th round en route to a split-decision loss against Danny Williams in 2005.

He then suffered another setback against unheralded American Dominick Guinn before seeming to turn a corner when he savagely avenged his defeat to 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 which helped him land his one and only world title shot against Haye, who was quick to praise his one-time foe.

"He has had a lot of stick over the years, but that is only because he has set his goals so high and promised to be world champion," said the 32-year-old. "He never became that, but he had a lot of fights and I can guarantee he has given everybody a lot of entertainment over the last 15 years or so since the Olympics.

"I know he didn't lace a pair of gloves on until he was 18 or 19, I know he had a bit of a rough upbringing. So I'm sure if someone had said to him then that he would achieve all this - being a professional, European champion, world title challenger, Olympic champion - I'm sure he would have snatched that out of your hand and said 'thank you very much, I'll have that'.

"The only thing he didn't achieve in his career is to win a legitimate world title and I'm sure you can look back through thousands of British boxers and boxers from around the world who haven't achieved a tenth of what Audley has done.

"I have known Audley since I was a teenager and he is a very nice man, a good guy and he should be judged on that. What he has done in the ring - just look at his record and the fights he has won. He has lost a few here and there, but that is boxing. It happens."