Audley Harrison announces retirement from boxing

Scott Heavey

Audley Harrison spent 12 years in the pro boxing world, forever failing to live up to his hype after winning an Olympic gold medal. Now, at age 41, he's decided to retire from the sport.

Audley Harrison, who won an Olympic gold medal in 2000 and then embarked on one of the most frustrating, disappointing pro boxing careers in recent memory, has announced an official retirement from boxing on his web site.

Harrison, 41, fought on April 27, losing to American prospect Deontay Wilder in 70 seconds. It was his third quick defeat against a higher-end opponent in recent years, following freeze-up failures against David Price and David Haye.

Here's a bit of Harrison's statement:

If you told me then I would be a 2x national champion, Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist, Olympic Games Gold Medalist, B.Sc. University Graduate. M.B.E, European Heavyweight Champion, married, and a parent, I would likely have said that's just stupid talk. In the rough neighborhoods where I grew up, it's hard to make dreams come true.

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.

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 retires from the pro ranks with a record of 31-7 (23 KO), his greatest achievement a brief reign as European heavyweight champion in 2010, when he dramatically beat Michael Sprott by 12th round knockout. He never did defend the title, instead pushed into a WBA world title fight with David Haye, where he lost in three.

Despite massive expectations when he turned pro, both domestically and worldwide, it was the only world title shot Harrison ever received.

Audley took a ton of criticism over the years, notably having his nicknamed changed from "A-Force" to "A-Farce," and it's true that he didn't even come close to living up to expectations. He sometimes sounded crazy in his last few years, talking about winning world titles, beating Klitschkos, always with "one more go" left in him, according to Audley and Audley alone.

When it was even somewhat viable, promoters were all too happy to sacrifice what was left of his name to Haye, Price, and Wilder.

But through it all -- all the backlash, all the failures, all the bad press and laughing at his career -- Harrison remained a gentlemanly man, who didn't seem to take anything personally or lose his cool when he easily could have. As he aged, some of the more fiery aspects of his personality were either toned down or simply went away. He is now well-liked by media and those in boxing, because he's a likable sort of guy.

While Harrison's pro career was a bust by any reasonable measure -- he was, in the minds of many, the reason the BBC dropped boxing, and a big reason Sky dropped PPV boxing for three years -- he did have a few successes along the way, winning the European belt, winning a couple of Prizefighter tournaments.

It would be a lie to say that Harrison being matched with Haye, Price, and Wilder down the final stretch of his career wasn't insulting to the intelligence of more dedicated boxing fans, who had long since stopped buying the Audley talk, but that's the boxing game. Harrison still had a name, for good, bad, or simply weird reasons, and that name was exploited. People turned up to see him take another crack. They must have known, somewhere deep down at the least, what would happen.

Audley has long had detractors, and will have them a long time coming. But he's wise enough now to know that it's truly over in the ring, and it's good to know he's got more in his life than a fool's hope to become world champion, when it's been proven time and again that it's just not in his grasp.

If there's one thing you can say about the letdown career of Audley Harrison, it was eventful -- he burned out instead of fading away, forever seeking the professional glory that would never come. And he had a career that a lot of fighters would love to have experienced. The expectations were different, and there's no question he fell remarkably short of early projections. But he's left on his terms, seemingly in fine health, and has accepted the shortcomings. It's better than a lot of boxing stories end.

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