DAVID HAYE STOPS AUDLEY HARRISON TO RETAIN WBA TITLE
David Haye retained his WBA heavyweight title with a third-round stoppage against Audley Harrison in Manchester.
Harrison crumbled under a barrage of blows as the all-British showdown briefly came to life after a tentative opening two rounds with few punches.
Haye, 30, clinically took his chance as he floored his 39-year-old fellow Londoner after less than eight minutes.
Former Olympic champion Harrison, 39, had said it was his destiny to triumph, but landed just one significant punch.
The fight had been marketed as 'The Best of Enemies' as the two former friends met in what was called the biggest heavyweight clash in British boxing since Lennox Lewis beat Frank Bruno in 1993.
However Harrison, who has been criticised for failing to build on the promise of his gold at the Sydney Games in 2000, appeared nervy and offered little resistance before the fight was halted one minute 53 seconds into the third round.
“I'm very happy with it. I said to people close to me I would stop him in three rounds and that's exactly what I did,” said Haye.
“I put a lot of money on the third round and lot of my friends and family did. I didn't want to let them down by doing him too early.”
The beaten older man Harrison, nicknamed 'A-Force', was downbeat and claimed the referee stopped the fight prematurely.
When asked if he would now retire, he replied: “I've got to sit down and reflect.”
Harrison boasted a three-stone weight advantage and a two-and-a-half-inch height difference, but Haye's slimmed-down frame enhanced his superior speed.
A boisterous 20,000 sell-out crowd at the MEN Arena booed Harrison into the ring and the jeers continued in a tame opening round, with Harrison offering three southpaw jabs to Haye's solitary body shot and occasional probing.
Referee Luis Pabon called the fighters together to urge them to fight during the second round, though Haye at least landed a hard right early on and two more later in the session before the fight exploded in the third.
Haye jumped in with a right hand and hurt Harrison. With Harrison on the ropes he followed it with a left-right combination which rocked the challenger's head back.
Further attacks to the body followed before he focused on the head once more, unleashing left hooks and straight rights which sent his man to the floor.
Harrison was back on his feet on the count of eight but Haye ran across the ring to finish him off with a huge roundhouse right and the referee called a halt.
Britain's former light welterweight champion Ricky Hatton, who was ringside for the bout, said he expected Harrison to deliver a better performance.
“He's got the height advantage, the weight advantage, the reach advantage and he barely threw a punch,” he said.
“Audley works so hard with all the criticism that he's had over the years to get this shot and I think when he goes back and watches the tape he'll be disappointed with himself.”
Haye, who was making the second defence of his world title, is now likely to focus his attention on becoming undisputed champion and restart negotiations with the Klitschko brothers – WBC belt holder Vitali and IBF/WBO champion Wladimir.
Adam Booth, Haye's trainer and manager, indicated he would not fight beyond October 2011.
“They (the Klitschko brothers) want a defining fight and David wants a defining fight,” said Booth.
“David will be retiring in October next year so they haven't got a lot of time to speak sense. He'll take out Wladimir before summer and take care of Vitali after the summer.”