Former WBA heavyweight champion David Haye has announced his retirement from professional boxing after 15-and-a-half years in the ring. 

Haye suffered the second of two back-to-back defeats against Tony Bellew in May 2017. Haye is also a former cruiserweight world champion and ends his career with a record of four defeats in 32 fights. He said he was "ready to close this chapter in my life" but "this is not the end of my story - it's simply the start of something new".

'I AM NO LONGER A PROFESSIONAL BOXER' - DAVID HAYE CONFIRMS HIS RETIREMENT IN HONEST STATEMENT

'I AM NO LONGER A PROFESSIONAL BOXER' - DAVID HAYE CONFIRMS HIS RETIREMENT IN HONEST STATEMENT VIDEO COURTESY OF WWW.HAYEMAKER.COM

Haye became European cruiserweight champion and went on to win the WBC, WBO, and WBA world titles before stepping up to heavyweight. He beat Russian Nikolay Valuev to claim the WBA heavyweight crown in 2009.

Haye released a statement: 

"For my fans, it must have been like going to support their favorite thoroughbred racehorse at the Grand National, only to see their stallion stumble out the gates like a sedated mule at the Donkey Derby.

"I saw punches coming but wasn't quick enough to avoid them. I created openings but lacked the speed and agility to capitalise on them. Quick, bread and butter counterattacks, the sort I've effortlessly thrown since my teenage years, are no longer in my armoury. And when I take shots, they now shake me to my boots."

"The things I used to be able to do in the ring - instinctively - now exist only in my mind and in video clips of my old fights. The boxing gods have spoken. They will no longer protect me with the freakish speed and power I used to possess. 

"And without these God-given gifts, I completely lose my edge."

Haye is the second boxer after American Evander Holyfield to unify the cruiserweight titles and become a heavyweight world champion and the first British world heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis.

After his fifth-round stoppage by Bellew, Haye acknowledged he was "giving 100% effort but performing way below world level". 

Haye is best known for his big fights against Tony Bellew and constantly being bombarded by Shannon "The Cannon" Briggs going into the fight against Bellew but "looks can be deceiving" as he also admitted he would have fought more in the second half of his career but for injuries to stop him doing so.

Tony Bellew VS David Haye 2 - THE REMATCH - FULL FIGHT [HD]

Full Fight between Tony Bellew and David Haye in HD - aired on 5th May 2018. Subscribe for more funny videos, gaming videos, tutorials, glitches and more!

"Often it was a fight just getting to the ring in one piece," Haye said. "In the past five years, I have snapped (fully ruptured) both biceps, my rotator cuff, and my Achilles tendon. All four injuries were potentially career-ending and each of them required operations with months of intense rehabilitation. The biggest physical challenge I had to face, however, was a spinal surgery in March 2015."

Haye also announced his retirement in October 2011, three months after losing his WBA belt to Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko in Germany, but he returned to the ring the following year.

This time around, he said: "I'm proud of the battles I've been through. I'm proud, too, that I exit the battlefield happy and healthy, with my family financially secure." 

"Most importantly, I can reflect on it all with crystal clarity."

Haye retires during a time when the heavyweight division is on fire with the potential matchup between Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua to unify all the heavyweight titles. When the world was focused on the welterweights, the heavyweights quietly begged for everyone's attention and David Haye was one of the new generation's early stars. To see him retire, like Andre Ward, feels early but after losing to Bellew twice and the new juggernaut division helmed by Joshua and Wilder being rougher terrain, Haye leaves on top by not doing too much.