Dereck Chisora was outpointed by Vitali Klitschko in Munich, but the British challenger showed plenty of heart in taking the fight to the scorecards.
Klitschko, defending his WBC heavyweight crown, was a heavy favourite but was unable to do to Chisora what he had done to 40 of his previous 45 opponents, namely knock him out before the final bell.
Chisora, 28, lost the fight at the Olympiahalle 119-111, 118-110, 118-110.
Chisora was a huge underdog going into the fight, but managed to spark worldwide interest by slapping Klitschko at Friday's weigh-in.
A build-up already shrouded in controversy grew murkier still when news began to filter through that a row had erupted over Chisora's handwraps.
The Ukrainian's camp insisted that Chisora's wraps be removed and reapplied, causing the fight to be delayed by 20 minutes.
On being informed of the delay, Klitschko's German fans, already distinctly unimpressed by the challenger, made their distaste known with a hail of whistles and boos, which reached fever pitch when Chisora finally appeared.
While the Londoner's actions succeeded in making the fight a talking point, they had the unfortunate side-effect of angering not only the locals but also Klitschko, who had lost only four rounds in eight fights since his comeback in 2008.
Chisora was giving away six inches in height and reach to the champion, meaning that many thought his pre-fight promise to be aggressive and fight on the front foot would be difficult to accomplish.
“I have respect for Chisora as a fighter but I don't have respect for him as a human. He showed a bad example for all boxing, for all fighters. He came from Great Britain but he's not a gentleman”
However, Chisora started well, demonstrating good head movement in the first round and landing with a couple of looping right hands, although Klitschko did begin to find his range towards the end of the opening stanza.
Klitschko landed with a punishing left-right combination midway through round two and followed up with three or four more right hands down the stretch, to all of which Chisora stood up well.
Chisora had some success to the body at the beginning of the third, but was stopped in his tracks by a thunderous uppercut and there were signs of desperation on the sound of the bell, the Englishman missing with a wild left hook that almost took him off his feet.
By round four, Chisora was bleeding from the nose and mouth as Klitschko, fighting almost exclusively on the back foot, continued to break him down with his ramrod right.
But a game Chisora kept ploughing forward, to the extent that Klitschko looked to be tiring by round five. And,while Klitschko continued to find his mark with his right in the sixth, he did not have it all his own way, the challenger perhaps doing enough to nick the round.
Chisora came on strong in the seventh, backing up his rival with some solid shots, only for Klitschko to land with perhaps his best shot of the fight, a barnstorming overhand right that appeared to make Chisora buckle.
But Chisora was undeterred, continuing to take Klitschko beyond his comfort zone, where the champion had been so rarely in his previous 45 fights.
(WBC Heavyweight title holder)
- Born - 19/7/1971
- Debut - 16/11/1996 v Tony Bradham
- Record - W 44 (KO 40), L 2
- Born - 29/12/1983
- Debut - 17/2/2007 v Istvan Kecskes
- Record - W 15 (KO 9), L 3
*includes Munich bout
At the end of round nine, during which Klitschko landed with his right almost at will, the champion looked astonished that his opponent was still standing, let alone making it a contest with three rounds to go. And, while Klitschko had the better of the exchanges down the stretch, Chisora never stopped coming forward and could leave the ring with his head held high.
Klitschko's previous defeat was against British legend Lennox Lewis in 2003, and the 40-year-old, who beat another Brit in Danny Williams in 2004, has not had too many harder fights since.
Chisora, meanwhile, has lost three of his last four fights - to Klitschko, Robert Helenius and Tyson Fury - but his latest performance and the parlous state of the heavyweight division mean that there are other fights out there for him.
Furthermore, Chisora will be buoyed that he gave arguably a better account of himself than domestic rival David Haye gave in losing to Vitali's younger brother Wladimir in Hamburg last July.
However, following the
bust-up between Chisora and Haye's camps at the post-fight press conference,
which ended with Haye's trainer Adam Booth suffering cuts to his face, it was once again matters outside the ring that will dominate the headlines.