Josh Warrington fell to one of the biggest shock defeats in a British ring in recent years as Mauricio Lara landed a stunning knockout at Wembley Arena.
Mexico’s Lara, 22, landed a heavy knockdown in the fourth round and Warrington struggled to make the bell, his legs barely able to support him.
Despite showing grit and trying to find poise, Warrington – a 1-25 betting favourite – was never able to recover.
In the ninth, a barrage of left hooks and a hard left hand wiped him out.
The former IBF world featherweight world champion – who had not fought in 16 months and gave up the belt in January to pursue other titles – was left flat on his back and was later taken to hospital for checks.
“That’s why it’s the best sport in the world,” said promoter Eddie Hearn.
“A young man, 22, comes in, no one gave him a chance. I’ve not seen bravery like I saw from Warrington for a long time. He never recovered from the fourth.
“He came out, he was erratic, the ring rust showed. He got caught and never recovered. How he got through the fourth I’ll never know but he was on empty. The bravery was incredible.
“You have to give Lara tremendous credit. For Warrington it’s a crushing blow.”
After a reckless opening during which both fighters looked leaky in their defence, it was Warrington who wilted when a heavy attack and left hand dropped him. Though he fought until the bell, had referee Howard Foster stepped in, the former champion could have had no complaints.
“If Josh survives this it’s one of the greatest comebacks I’ve ever seen in a British ring,” tweeted former world champion Tony Bellew.
Warrington spent the early part of the fifth in survival mode but seemed fully aware his legs were shaky underneath him and was heard telling his corner his shoulder was in pain when the three minutes were up.
Lara, cut but on the brink of the win of his life, grew in confidence. He was taking shots of his own and rugged in his approach rather than polished but when he took two hard shots in the eighth and yet instantly backed Warrington up with a punch of his own, the greater power he carried was obvious.
A round later it was all over, a right to the body and left to the face sealing a knockout win that will be felt the world over, none more so than in the Lara’s boxing-crazed homeland.
Some will ask if Warrington’s 16-month spell of inactivity was key, others will wonder whether he was looking past his opponent.
Whatever his reasoning, he will pick the bones out of a first defeat in 31 outings, a loss no-one saw coming.
More to follow.