Haye leaves Germany empty-handed
David Haye's dream of ultimate heavyweight glory ended in frustrating disappointment in the rain in Hamburg.
The WBA world champion lost his title as he failed to live up to his pre-fight boasting - dismissed by his opponent as trashtalking - and left thousands of his travelling fans upset by a lacklustre performance against Wladimir Klitschko, who comfortably held on to his three titles with a unanimous points victory.
Haye later blamed a broken toe for his defeat, saying: 'I might not have been at my best but I gave it as much as I could. I couldn't push on my right leg. Something happened in training and I didn't want to pull out.
'I broke my toe on my right foot. I couldn't push off the right foot to throw the right hand. I thought adrenaline would get me through it but it was tough. It's incredibly frustrating.'
All the predictions that these two heavy-handed champions would produce a spectacular contest proved wide of the mark as the fight evolved into a cagey encounter.
Haye had far too many problems keeping out of trouble to be able to land enough telling punches of his own as Klitschko's superior size and reach made all the difference.
Haye simply could not get past the piston-rod left hand and get going.
By the finish the judges had Klitschko well ahead on points, with one, Michael Pendrick of the US, giving Klitschko 10 of the 12 rounds in a score of 118-108.
Adalaide Byrd (US) scored the contest 117-109 with Stanley Christodoulou (South Africa) making it 116-110.
Haye will be upset that he should lose for only the second time in his professional career in what will probably be his last fight if he goes ahead with his promise to retire before his 31st birthday on October 13.
Any hope he had of fighting Klitschko's elder brother Vitali, holder of the WBC version of the title, would appear to be over.
The Klitschkos have done what they said they would do and closed the argument with the Bermondsey big mouth, whose two-year campaign of scandalous insults and bad taste came to a tame end.
As the rain had poured down, tentative plans by the organisers to delay the fight for 24 hours were quickly dismissed with a 50,000 crowd already filling the stadium.
Haye added to the pre-fight controversy by delaying his entrance to the ring by eight minutes. He eventually appeared, looking relaxed as he walked to the ring in the centre of the Imtech Arena, although he appeared to be jostled by some of the waiting fans.
But the contest began in a predictably cautious fashion with neither man able to impose himself. Klitschko, as expected, occupied the centre of the ring, keeping Haye at bay with his straight left jab.
Haye spent most of the first two rounds dodging out of range, throwing just occasional combinations.
Haye was scrambling on the canvas in the first round but American referee Genaro Rodriguez ruled a slip as the predominantly German crowd roared in expectation.
When Haye went to the floor again in the 11th round, the referee ruled that he had been knocked down by a legal punch, even though the Londoner shook his head and disputed the decision.
But Haye was forced to take a standing eight count. Needing a big last round, Haye could deliver only one piercing right hand to trouble Klitschko.
He simply could not get close enough to the bigger man.
At the final bell, both men raised their fists in triumph but neither had produced the fireworks expected. By then, though, Klitschko had it won easily.