David Haye stops Audley Harrison to retain WBA title
Haye saw Harrison off with a brutal third-round onslaught
David Haye retained his WBA heavyweight title with a third-round stoppage of 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 had said it was his destiny to triumph, but landed just one punch.
The fight had been marketed as 'The Best of Enemies' as the two former friends met in what was 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 and 53 seconds into the third round.
A victorious Haye said: "I told everyone I'd knock him out in three rounds.
"As soon as I started putting my punches together the fight was effectively over.
"I was hoping he would come out and try to engage a little bit more, because I'm a very good counter-puncher, but I said it wouldn't go past three rounds.
"Adam [Booth, Haye's trainer] was happy with what I was doing because he knew eventually I'd nail him. Once I've got a guy hurt, they're going over."
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."
He added: "The strategy was to take David Haye into the late rounds but he caught me with a good shot.
"I'm just disappointed I didn't get the chance to show my game-plan. I prepared for victory, went in believing I could win and felt it was my moment.
"I wouldn't accept that I froze at all, it was a bit cat and mouse earlier on, but he's a counter puncher and so am I, it was always going to be like that. I definitely didn't freeze, I'm not a gung-ho kind of fighter, I set traps for people and I had him dancing to my tune."
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.
They (the Klitschko brothers) want a defining fight and David wants a defining fight
Haye's trainer/manager Adam Booth
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 has worked 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."
Promoter Frank Warren criticised Harrison and suggested he should not have been allowed to face Haye.
"One guy turned up and took his purse and went home. I thought Audley Harrison was disgraceful," said Warren.
"I don't know what he was doing there in the first place. He is not even in the top three heavyweights in Britain.
"He did not try in any shape or form and that's a disgrace to any fighter who gets an opportunity like that."
Former WBC super middleweight champion Carl Froch feels Harrison "disgraced himself" with his performance.
"He was absolutely frightened to death, scared to death," said Froch. "He has done it before in fights against smaller men who have got really poor records.
"He has completely written himself off again. He needs to get a one-way ticket to Australia and not come back because he can't show his face.
"After all the talk and the hype and the salesman tactics in the build-up to the fight, he got in there and disgraced himself. It was absolutely appalling."
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."
On the undercard earlier on Saturday, Commonwealth super-middleweight champion George Groves got off the floor and stopped Scot Kenny Anderson to defend his title and move closer to a possible showdown with arch enemy James DeGale.
Hammersmith's Groves was given the sternest test of his unbeaten 10-fight career, climbing off the canvas in the third round and relying on animal instinct to stop his fellow unbeaten prospect in the sixth round.
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