“WHEN I woke up in Los Angeles in April, the night after losing to one of the greats [Vasyl Lomachenko], that’s when I had the thought [to retire]. I didn’t want to make any rash decisions, so I gave myself the summer to think about. I’ve been a world champion – I got what I wanted out of boxing. You’ve got to be realistic. It’s not a defeatist attitude, but Lomachenko’s got the [WBC, WBA and WBO lightweight] belts at the minute and he could have the IBF by next spring. While he’s world champion, I’m not winning a world title. That’s just being realistic. It’s not going to be until at least this time next year that we’ll know what’s going to happen with the belts [if Lomachenko vacates]. There are still big-money fights out there for me in the meantime, but are there easier ways to make money [than boxing]? This will be my 45th fight – that’s a lot of fights. Boxing’s been so good to me. I want to make sure that I take more from boxing than boxing takes from me.
“I know for a fact that I’ll have a battle for a good while thinking, ‘Have I done the right thing or not?’ I still feel great in the gym. Some people close to me don’t think that I should retire, but the fact that I’m even thinking about retiring shows that the time is right to do it. I’m a very hungry and determined person. The motivation is still there for me – I’ve trained as hard as ever for this fight. But now’s the right time for me to go out. I’ve spoken to a few people whose opinions I respect, and they’ve said the same thing. There are people whose opinions I respect who think I should carry on, but the fact that I’m having these thoughts shows that it’s time to bow out. The desire and hunger to have one more fight will probably never leave me, but I’ve just got to get used to dealing with that. I can still get joy out of boxing through different ways – from helping to train fighters and spending a lot of time in my amateur gym.
“I was tempted to retire after the Lomachenko fight, but I didn’t want my last memory of boxing being face-down in the ring! Styles make fights and I genuinely believe that I’d still beat a lot of the top lightweights in the world. But to get back into a position to fight for a world title again would require a few hard, hard fights. Would that take its toll on me and be one fight too many?
“That’s what I’ve had to weigh up. I’m gutted because when you love something like I love boxing, it’s so hard to let it go. I’ll still pop in the gym and keep fit, but I’ll miss the fight nights most – walking out into a packed arena with people singing your name. That feeling is unreal and I’ll never get that again.
“I never stopped believing that I could get to where I wanted to be in the sport, even when I was losing at domestic level. Looking back, the greatest night of my career would be when I defended the world title [against Ismael Barroso in May 2016]. I’ll never forget being introduced as a world champion by Michael Buffer and walking out into the arena that night.”