FORMER world champion David Haye knew his boxing career was finished just 35 seconds into his rematch with Tony Bellew.
The heavyweight was dropped three times before being stopped in the fifth back at The O2 on May 5, 2018, leading to his retirement a few weeks later.
‘Hayemaker’ had suffered a ruptured Achilles during the first fight with the Liverpudlian a year previous, forcing his corner to stop the clash in the eleventh.
But despite coming into the second bout as heavy favourite, the Londoner – who has famously entered a "throuple" since hanging up his gloves – admits he realised he was finished as a boxer inside the very first round of the one-sided affair.
Speaking to the Daily Star, Haye said: “I knew about 35 seconds into the first round of that second fight with Tony Bellew that this was it.
"It just felt all wrong, it was really weird. I've never had it before. It just didn't feel like a boxing match, it felt really strange.
“I was kind of posturing and hoping something would click into how it always was, and it just didn't click in at any stage.
“Even in the early rounds, the rounds I was winning, it just felt that everything was an effort. Even to move and bounce, it was all an effort.
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“I’d see opportunities after they'd gone, whereas before I'd see it and just deal with it. But it just got to that point where I just couldn't see and it was too late. "Where I'd normally slip and counter I was just getting hit.
"It was a feeling I've never had before and would never like to have ever again to be brutally honest!”
The ex-two-weight title holder continued: “I’m glad it ended as conclusively as it did so it doesn't leave me with any thoughts that 'maybe one day I can do a little bit better, if it wasn't for my Achilles then I could have done it.
“I knew that was it. I can remember that feeling of 'that's it, you've pushed it as far as it's humanly possible to push it, you've given it a good go, you've given yourself the best chance, you're as healthy as you've ever been, you're as strong, you're as fit' – but it's not about strength or fitness, it's about how much fight your body can fight.
“And once that flame's out, it's out for good.”
In 2021, Haye did return to the ring for an exhibition match against pal Joe Fournier.
He won by unanimous decision after eight rounds, but despite admitting he enjoyed it there's no chance he will return again
“The itch was there for me at the time, I really enjoyed it,” Haye said of his exhibition bout.
“I did like a month’s boxing training for that, I don’t usually do boxing training anymore I just do weight training and circuits and general all-around fitness so I had a month to do some sparring and general boxing training – really got the juices flowing.
“But, since then I’ve packed up the gloves so the vibe’s gone now [laughs]. I’m just enjoying my world tour at the moment, just bumping around enjoying life,” Haye concluded.
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