MANCHESTER, England -- David Haye stopped Audley Harrison in the third round to retain his WBA heavyweight title Saturday night.
Haye proved too strong for the 39-year-old Harrison, knocking him down in the third round and causing referee Luis Pabon to stop the first all-British heavyweight title bout in 13 years to prevent further punishment.
Haye promised to spoil's Harrison's first major title bout a decade after winning the heavyweight gold medal in the Sydney Olympics, and he delivered quickly in his second title defense.
Harrison, bitter at Haye for ignoring him at his lowest point after helping Haye rise to the top, was more than 40 pounds heavier and two inches taller than Haye, but it didn't matter to the champion.
Harrison barely brushed Haye in a cautious opening and took more than a minute to even throw a punch as the first round ended in jeers from the sellout 20,000-crowd in MEN Arena.
The second round was marginally better as Haye landed a couple of rights on Harrison, who looked fearful and hesitant.
Haye finally unleashed hooks and cuts at the start of the third round, knocking down Harrison, who took an eight count.
When Haye landed more unanswered heavy blows, Pabon moved in to end a lopsided contest at 1 minute, 53 seconds.
"I was patient," Haye said. "I knew the jeers would turn into cheers."
Haye gave Harrison a hug as they met for their post-match news conference and said: "Whatever differences we had, that's in the past."
"We made sacrifices to get in the ring," Haye said. "I came off the better man and was always confident I would. The fact he wouldn't look in my eye when I got into the ring told me he didn't want to engage. I like to look in their eyes and say 'Let's do this.' He wouldn't do that and was looking everywhere but my eyes.
"I put a lot of money on the third round and lot of my friends and family did."
Harrison left to more boos, but said his defensive style was part of his tactics.
"I went in there believing I could win. I felt it was my moment but wasn't to be," he said. "I thought the crowd were booing both me and David Haye and I was comfortable my plan was coming together. But give credit to David. He's a puncher and we know that. I didn't freeze out there. I'm not going to put my chin out there. I'm not a gung-ho type of fighter.
"It's disappointing, but [I have] no excuses. I had a chance at the world title, but [I came] up short."
The knockout was Haye's 23 in 25 wins, against one loss. Harrison dropped to 27-5.
Haye has set his sights on a unification bout with the Klitschko brothers. Wladimir, the IBF champion, looks a more likely option before WBC champ Vitali.
"Once they see the numbers and that I am the main man and there's nobody else to fight," said the 30-year-old Haye. "I can't promise anything. I've dealt with these guys before. But I will do everything in my power to make this happen. It has to happen in 2011."