David Haye blamed a toe injury suffered in training after losing a wide points decision to Wladimir Klitschko in their heavyweight unification clash in rain-soaked Hamburg
Haye plans to retire in October when he turns 31 and knew this was his chance to not only prove himself as a heavyweight but also establish a real legacy in the division as the man to end Klitschko’s dominance.
But at the Imtech Arena football stadium, Haye was unable to back up his aggressive bravado by instead fighting defensively and losing with scores of 117-109, 118-108 and 116-110.
He insisted his tactics were enforced by injury, however, as he said: “I might not have been at my best but I gave it as much as I could. I couldn’t push on my right leg. Something happened in training and I didn’t want to pull out. I broke my toe on my right foot. I couldn’t push off the right foot to throw the right hand.”
He added: “I thought adrenaline would get me through it but it was tough. It’s incredibly frustrating.”
The event had threatened to be a damp squib with constant rainfall leaving most of ringside soaking wet, although the downpour eased by the first bell and a canopy over the ring itself seemed to be keeping the canvas dry.
Haye, who headed into the bout with a record of 25-1 with 23 knockouts, ended over two years of waiting when he finally came face to face with Klitschko (55-3, 49KOs).
After so much trash-talking and on-off negotiating, the two men were squaring off in what Haye labelled “the biggest fight in boxing” and the most high-profile heavyweight clash since Lennox Lewis beat Mike Tyson in 2002.
The unification super-fight saw 30-year-old Haye putting his WBA heavyweight title on the line in a bid to snatch his Germany-based Ukrainian opponent’s IBF, WBO and Ring magazine belts.
He did so as the clear betting underdog, conceding three inches in height, two stone in weight, years in experience and home advantage against a 35-year-old who had reigned since his last knockout defeat seven years ago.