It looks like the long and distinguished career of Junior Witter is over after he quit at the end of round eight of his vacant World Boxing Council light-welterweight fight in what will surely be his last chance to win a world title.
Witter insisted an old hand injury, which was aggravating his elbow, forced him to withdraw but he was trailing, he was cut and unbeaten American Devon Alexander had hurt him repeatedly at the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, California.
"There was nothing in the fight and I certainly didn't want to quit – I wanted to win," claimed Witter, who had been warned several times about holding and spoiling throughout the fight. "I will now have to look at all the options before making a decision, but it doesn't feel like it was my last fight." Witter lost for just the third time in 42 fights in a career that started in small-hall obscurity in January 1997.
At the stoppage Witter, who once held the WBC title, was trailing heavily on all three scorecards and was clearly struggling to cope with Alexander's speed and, more alarmingly, power. Witter was stunned and shaken several times, saved by the ropes in round five and generally pushed about, which is often a sign that age has finally caught up with a fighter's desire.
Witter has undoubtedly met bigger hitters and far more dangerous opponents in fights where his speed, his resilience and his own power have combined to create a balance. Sadly, on Saturday night, with just one good arm for four of the eight rounds, he looked, moved and reacted like an old fighter, a fighter trapped in the middle of a lost cause.
"He over-extended the left arm and hurt his hand in about round four," said Mick Hennessy, Witter's promoter. "It's impossible to keep a good young fighter like Alexander off with just one arm."
"It will be tough for Junior now because I think that he could still clean up at British and European level, but it's a big step down for him because he's been at world-class level for a long, long time," continued Hennessy. "He is perfectly capable still of beating a top fighter on the right night."
There will be some critics of the fight's outcome and Witter's final act, but at the end of round eight he did perhaps the bravest thing available to any boxer in a fight where the head finally rules the heart: he quit. Greats like Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson and Kostya Tszyu have done the same and it will be interesting to see where Witter can go from here.