Delivered on February 6, 2004
I am announcing the end of an important chapter of my life and the beginning of a new one. June 21, 2003, was my last fight as a professional boxer.
While I began boxing at the Kitchener-Waterloo Regional Boxing Association in Kitchener, Ontario, I set out on a mission. What started as a teenager’s dream to become heavyweight champion quickly became my life’s passion and career thus far. During the past twenty-three years, I have set a number of goals for myself and I’m proud to say that these goals have been achieved. Now I am ready to set new goals and start a new career for myself outside the ring.
I’ve tried to be a good champion and believe that I’ve practiced my trade in a manner befitting a sport that I call “the sweet science.” I experienced some wonderful victories. And I learned that defeat, properly handled, makes a person stronger.
I’m proud to have returned the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world to England, a nation with a historic boxing tradition, and to have been the first heavyweight champion from England since Bob Fitzsimmons more than a century ago.
I am particularly pleased to be stepping down while still the reigning lineal heavyweight champion. Only two other men, Gene Tinney and Rocky Marciano, have retired as champion and stayed retired. I promise you, I will be the third.
Time and experience often give birth to a re-examination of values and a refocusing of perspective. Being champion for as long as I have has allowed me the luxury of learning on the job. One of the first things I learned was that being heavyweight champion is a role that carries with it responsibilities that go far beyond the ring.