By Mark Staniforth
Audley Harrison will ease into retirement insisting he can salvage much from a career that started in a glow of golden glory and was almost certainly ended by the clubbing fists of Deontay Wilder in Sheffield on Saturday night.
Harrison was stopped after just 70 seconds of his latest comeback bout against the unbeaten American, crumpling under the weight of a swinging right hook and failing to convince referee Terry O'Connor he was fit to continue.
It was Harrison's second first-round loss in seven months, having lasted just 12 seconds longer against David Price in Liverpool last October, and it left the 41-year-old to acknowledge he had nowhere else to go.
Harrison told Press Association Sport: "I've always said when I go into a fight 100 per cent ready and I get beaten by the other guy, I've come to my time. This could be the end for me.
"I've given everything to fight for a world title. I've never given up and I've pushed and pushed and pushed. I have got a lot to be proud of, but I have been found wanting on a few occasions and I have to look at myself and accept that.
"I will go away and think about it. My wife is expecting our baby next week so I will go home and God willing I will celebrate that. I don't think I can continue to put myself and my family through it."
The usual chorus of cat-calls that greeted Harrison's ring walk once again underlined the fact that the former Olympic gold medallist had long since become something of a joke figure for a large proportion of British boxing fans.
But however misplaced it might have been, none could fault Harrison's determination in seeking to get his career back on track against an opponent regarded by many in the sport as a potential successor to the Klitschko brothers.
An Olympic bronze medallist from 2008, the 6ft 7in Wilder had knocked out all 27 of his previous professional opponents and his aggressive start soon indicated Harrison would become his 28th victim.
Bullying the Briton into a neutral corner, Wilder stunned Harrison with his first right and followed up with a searing second which folded Harrison almost double. He rained in more shots as Harrison slowly slid to the canvas.
Inevitably Harrison's latest and probably last capitulation was greeted with derision from some sections of the crowd but Harrison believes the public perception of his career will change with time.
"I think in the long term people will look at me more favourably because I have never given up and I have achieved a good level of success. I have made a lot of noise and opened a lot of doors on the promotional side.
"I will rue not fighting for a world title but I am happy with what I've achieved. I went from being a nine-year-old in the ghetto to becoming an Olympic gold medallist. The rest of it just wasn't to be."
While Harrison faded into retirement, both Anthony Ogogo and Amir Khan's younger brother Haroon kicked off their careers with impressive debut wins which have earned them both an instant trip to the United States.
Olympic bronze medallist Ogogo dumped Telford's Kieron Gray with a stunning right hand in the second round of their scheduled middleweight six-rounder.
Meanwhile the younger Khan marked his own professional start with a 40-37 points victory over Lincoln novice Brett Fidoe.
Afterwards promoter Richard Schaefer confirmed both Ogogo and Khan would next figure on a planned May 18 show in Atlantic City.
Ogogo said: "I want to be the best but I'm not deluded - I know I'm a million miles from topping big bills - but if I keep working hard in the gym one day I will be fighting for a world title.
"I have learned a lot and now I want to add the benefit of fighting in the United States. It is a great opportunity for me and ultimately it is all going to help me towards accomplishing my goals."
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