David Haye pulls out of Tyson Fury fight with shoulder injury; career in jeopardy

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David Haye (front) was due to fight Tyson Fury on February 8th but has had to pull out due to a shoulder injury. (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

David Haye

Former heavyweight titleholder David Haye has undergone reconstructive shoulder surgery and will withdraw from his February 8th fight against Tyson Fury. Via his website, Haye says doctors have advised him to consider retirement.

“I genuinely believed the shoulder injury wasn't that bad,” Haye said. “But the doctor sent me for a detailed MRI scan and within 24 hours I was told the full extent of the damage. Twenty-four hours after that I was in the operating theatre.”

Haye, 33, has not fought since July, 2012, when he knocked out Dereck Chisora. A fight with Fury -- who Haye has engaged in a tense war of words with at press events and on social media -- was originally scheduled for September but was postponed after Haye (18-4) suffered a cut above his left eyebrow that required six stitches to close.

Now, Haye -- who signed a four-fight deal with Matchroom Sport earlier this year--faces the possibility of never fighting again.

“It's a crushing blow for me,” Haye said. “I had big plans for next year, and the ultimate goal was to win back the world heavyweight title, something my amazing fans deserve. What I didn't anticipate was that this year would be the unluckiest of my career and that a number of injuries would disrupt my plans so much. Perhaps it just wasn't meant to be. The boxing gods keep hinting that maybe enough is enough and that it's time to finally hang up my gloves.”

A distinguished cruiserweight, Haye was a unified titleholder, showcasing thudding power in the under 200-pound division. But as a heavyweight, Haye has been largely a disappointment. He moved up in 2008, stopping Monte Barrett in the fifth round. In 2009, Haye defeated Nikolay Valuev to win a piece of the heavyweight title. He defended it twice, against John Ruiz and Audley Harrison, before losing to Wladimir Klitschko.

In the bigger weight class, Haye was often unable or unwilling to back up his tough talk. Despite frequently belittling Wladimir and his brother, titleholder Vitali Klitschko, Haye refused to fight either for years. He pulled out of a scheduled fight with Wladimir in 2009, and despite the willingness of both brothers to fight Haye, he often sought out softer touches. When he did finally face Wladimir, Haye was beaten badly, losing a lopsided decision that he later blamed on a toe injury he suffered before the fight.

Haye did back up his bravado in 2012, against Chisora. Haye’s beef with Chisora began earlier that year, when Haye sparked a brawl at a postfight press conference for Chisora and Vitali Klitschko. After a tense buildup -- which included press events where Haye and Chisora were separated by a chain link fence -- Haye dominated Chisora, dropping him in the fifth round with a crushing right hand.

With Haye out, Fury is without an opponent. One possibility could be American Deontay Wilder, who told SI.com last month that he was willing to fight Fury anywhere.

“I want to be remembered as a fearless guy who will travel to your home to beat you,” Wilder said. “I will fight anywhere. I’m comfortable anywhere you put me in. No matter what city I’m in, I adapt to that. I was in England [recently] and me and Tyson stepped into the ring together. Tyson said he wanted to fight me in New York. I think he was puzzled at how excited I was to fight him. But he has stated he won’t risk his career for me unless it’s for a lot of money. But I want it. Bring it on.”

As for Haye, he faces an uncertain future.

“The surgery and subsequent results are a bitter pill to swallow because I truly felt I had a lot more to offer and was looking forward to paying back my loyal fans with some great fights in 2014,” Haye said. “But I've been boxing for 23 years now, amateur and pro, and this has clearly taken its toll on my body.”

“I can only offer my sincerest apologies to all those fans who have followed me over the years and, like me, wanted to finish on a real high. This wasn't how I wanted to end 2013.If I'm now destined to have won the European Championship, the unified World Cruiserweight Championship and the WBA Heavyweight Championship of the world...then so be it. I'm proud of these achievements and consider my boxing career a huge success.”