TONY Jeffries has finally hung up his gloves after admitting that persistent hand injuries could not be overcome, writes Graeme Anderson.
The news is not expected – the light-heavyweight has not fought for over a year while he underwent an increasingly desperate series of treatments.
But it still comes as a shock that Sunderland’s only Olympic boxing medallist has had to quit at the age of just 27 after just a handful of professional fights.
Jeffries, who has been based in Los Angeles for the last few years, described himself as “sad” at finally having to make the decision.
“I’ve had problems with my hands for years but after winning my previous fight this time last year, the pain got too much and I had to get them assessed and have an MRI scan.
“I did everything I possibly could to be able to punch again.
“The surgery helped the pain and movement and has been great for everyday life but not enough to punch again.
“I tried last week for the first time in 10 months but before I even did it I knew it was going to hurt because just making a fist still hurts.
“I’ve been lying to myself for so long, hoping it would get right.
“I suppose I just didn’t want to come to the reality of not being able to fight again.
“Now I have no other option.”
“I get asked loads of time every day “How’s your hands?” and it’s great so many people care.
“But it’s not great having nothing good to say back.
“So I’m sad to say at the age of 27 I will be retiring from the ring.”
Jeffries is calling time at a boxing career which began at the age of 10.
As an amateur he won seven national titles, five European medals and two Multi-Nation gold medals.
He captained England and Great Britain more than a dozen times and fought for his country 57 times.
The highlight of his career was winning a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, watched by a global audience and backed by millions in the UK.
He was BBC North East’s Sports Personality of the Year and went on to be undefeated in all 10 of his professional fights, winning nine (six by KO) and drawing one.
Outside the ring he has also been a champion fundraiser, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity.
He said: “I’m really honoured to have done all this.
“Only in the last two weeks I’ve had two people – a cancer survivor and a Paralympic champion – tell me my support saved or changed their lives.
“It put a lump in my throat.
“Boxing’s had its bad times too.
“I’ve had surgery five times too, (on both hands, elbow, eye and nose), over 60 stitches in my face and been ripped off massively as a pro.
“But I’m still healthy with 99 per cent of my marbles, enjoying living in Los Angeles with my lovely wife Sarah.
“I really would like to thank every single person who has wished me luck, said ‘well done’ or supported me in any way. I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.
“When I eventually have kids and grandkids I will be sure to tell them about the support from around the UK and especially from my home city of Sunderland. It really made me the man I am.”