DEAN Francis has announced his retirement from professional boxing.

The 40-year-old’s latest comeback was ended by Bob Ajisafe at the Rivermead Centre, in Reading, on Saturday, Francis surviving 12 brutal rounds before a unanimous points decision went against him.

Ajisafe claimed the vacant British light-heavyweight title as a result of his victory, while Francis has decided to bring the curtain down on an incredible career.

“It’s time to leave it to the younger guys but I cannot be anything but proud of my career,” the Basingstoke boxer said.

“I would like to have fulfilled my dream of winning a world title but you cannot always get what you want. I have had a turbulent life and just have to accept the fact that I gave it my best shot.”

After an impressive amateur career, Francis turned professional in 1994, winning 21 of his first 22 fights to win a British title and push himself into world title contention. Everything changed in October 1998, when Francis dislocated his shoulder during a fight against American Undra White at Basingstoke Arena.

He was advised to retire and things soon got worse as he was sent to prison following a fight outside a Basingstoke takeaway.

Francis did not return to the ring until 2002 but shoulder problems continued to plague him and, while he beat Tony Oakey to win another British title in 2008, he retired less than a year later.

He returned to the ring in 2012, winning three fights to set up a British title fight against Ajisafe – but that proved to be a step too far.

Francis showed incredible bravery to see out the 12 rounds despite seeming to be in major trouble on three occasions, most notably at the end of the fifth round.

He somehow survived a barrage of punches while trapped on the ropes and was probably saved by the bell.

The judges were unanimous in their decision to award Ajisafe victory, while Francis was left with a badly bruised and swollen face.

“I realised through the fight that my age was having a big effect on my performance because I could not move as quickly as I used to,” Francis explained. “I took too many shots over the course of the fight.

“This time, the decision is final. There are no excuses, which makes it easier. I gave myself the best chance to win the fight and didn’t leave anything in the ring.

“He was an awkward customer and I never felt that I had worked him out at any point in the fight. I did not deserve to win because I was not able to work him out, but it was a close fight.”

Francis will now switch his attention to a career in business and is planning to launch a clothing company called Righteous Fashion in the near future.