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Former heavyweight titlist David Haye withdrew from his upcoming fight with fellow British contender Tyson Fury on Sunday and faces the prospect of retirement after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder.
Haye, also the former cruiserweight world champion, announced that he underwent five hours of shoulder surgery in Germany on Thursday and has been told to consider ending his 11-year professional career.
Haye said he had surgery to repair ruptures in the right subscapularis and bicep tendon attachments.
"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 theater.
"It's a crushing blow for me. 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."
The 33-year-old Haye (26-2, 24 KOs) and Fury (21-0, 15 KOs), 25, who have viciously taunted and trash-talked each other, were originally due to square off Sept. 28 -- on HBO in the United States and Sky Box Office pay-per-view view in the United Kingdom -- at the Phones 4u Arena in Manchester, England.
But the fight was postponed until Feb. 8 when Haye suffered a gash over his left eye during his final sparring session. He needed six stitches to close the wound and because of the injury, venue availability and television schedules, the fight was delayed. Now it is off altogether.
"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."
Fury, clearly not happy with the fight being called off, lashed out at Haye on Twitter with a profanity-filled message.
Haye won a version of the heavyweight title in 2009 by outpointing 7-footer Nikolai Valuev of Russia in Germany and went on to make two defenses, beating former titleholder John Ruiz and countryman and 2000 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist Audley Harrison.
But then Haye faced champion Wladimir Klitschko in a July 2011 unification fight and was routed in an uncompetitive decision loss. Haye blamed the loss on an injured pinkie toe and became the butt of jokes around the world.
Haye has fought only once since because of injuries, a fifth-round knockout of countryman and former world title challenger Dereck Chisora in July 2012. Haye was scheduled to face Manuel Charr in June in Manchester but withdrew from the bout, claiming a left hand injury. Then Haye and Fury began their war of words and eventually agreed to the fight in September.
Because of Haye's issues, Fury has fought only once this year. He made his American debut on April 20 in New York and stopped former cruiserweight titlist Steve Cunningham of Philadelphia in the seventh round, though Cunningham dropped Fury in the second round and nearly knocked him out.