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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Time for the 'Hayemaker' to call it a day

David Haye suffered a second straight loss to Tony Bellew on Saturday night. It's time for him to walk away

It was a sad way to end it all. David Haye, the man who not so long ago was tasked with rescuing the heavyweight division, reeling, unsteady on his feet, being told he had had enough, on the end of yet another defeat.

Haye, the Bermondsey boy who grew up a stone's throw away from London's 02 Arena, scene of his latest downfall at the hands of Tony Bellew, booed by his home crowd, sent into what his supporters and those concerned with any sportsman's well-being hope will be permanent retirement.

It was a second damaging defeat to Bellew in the space of 14 months. Whereas Haye's body gave out on him - not for the first time it must be said - in the first contest in March 2017, it was Bellew's clubbing overhand rights over the top of Haye's jab, so often his weapon of choice, that put paid to him this time. It's the way Haye would least have wanted to bow out: outsmarted and outgunned by a man he considered inferior.

It's all a far cry from "The Haymaker" version 1. The Englishman's good looks, trash talking, god-like physique and devastating punching power - a promoter's dream - became too big for the cruiserweight division, one where Haye suffered just one defeat in 22 contests and held the European, WBA, WBC and WBO belts.

Stepping up to the big leagues, Haye was tasked with injecting dynamism and fun into the heavyweights - boxing's blue riband division - one that was in the vice-like death grips of the Klitschko brothers for too long.

David Haye, right, takes a jab from Wladimir Klitschko during their heavyweight fight in Hamburg, Germany, in July 2011. Getty Images
David Haye, right, takes a jab from Wladimir Klitschko during their heavyweight fight in Hamburg, Germany, in July 2011. Getty Images

Like David felled Goliath, Haye would conquer the Russian giant Nikolai Valuev to win the WBA heavyweight title in November 2009. Victories over John Ruiz and Audley Harrison put him on a collision course with Wladimir Klitschko, the IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight champion.

Before that 2011 fight in Hamburg, Haye had the world at his feet. Sadly for him, a broken toe on his right foot hampered him as the Ukrainian took a unanimous decision.

Injuries would be a recurring theme for Haymaker 2.0 as would more unsavoury scenes that gave critics of the sweet science plenty of stick in which to beat it with. An ugly post-fight fracas with Dereck Chisora following his loss to Klitschko which resulted in Haye smashing a bottle into his fellow Englishman's face still leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

Haye was forced to pull out of fights against Manuel Charr and Tyson Fury due to injury and underwent shoulder reconstruction surgery in November 2013 that had prompted his first retirement. After two comeback fights that were little more than glorified workouts, disaster would strike for Haye against Bellew in March 2017.

Seemingly having the better of the early exchanges, Haye's Achilles blew out on him in Round 6, causing him to fall over twice before he was knocked out of the ring in Round 11 before his corner finally saw sense and ended the fight.

Haye fell down some stairs ahead of their slated December 2016 rematch. And although Haye looked in as good as physical shape as he ever has, Bellew's ability to bully, lay traps and make Haye miss for much of Saturday's five rounds were a sad indictment of a fighter in decline.

Having tasted the canvas twice before referee Howard Foster called a halt to proceedings, many of his detractors will feel Haye got his comeuppance against Bellew. But behind the braggadocio lies a supreme talent who cares deeply about boxing, one who's razor-sharp tongue was matched by his laser-like fists. Though some find him crass and potty mouthed, Haye is impossibly polite off camera. He understands the game of selling tickets and getting people to part with their money to tune in on pay-per-view.

They say fighters are always the last to know when it's time to leave the party. If Haye has any doubts the time has come for him to grab his coat and call a taxi, the fact he still has his health, film-star looks, money in the bank as well as a lifetime of memories of thrilling knockouts that left fans on the edge of their seats should be enough to ease the pain.

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