Anthony Yarde came within seconds of knocking out world champion Sergey Kovalev last night before being stopped himself.
The British upstart was bidding to produce an upset equal to Lloyd Honeyghan’s famous victory over Donald Curry in 1986.
He made a slow start in Russia but a mid-fight revival saw him punch Kovalev to within an inch of losing his treasured light-heavweight title.
The champion clung on for dear life before swinging the fight back in his favour with a remarkable recovery.
He dumped Yarde on the canvas in the penultimate round and the exhausted challenger could not haul himself back to his feet.
“I’ll be honest, experience played a big part,” said Yarde. “I’m upset but I did myself justice, even coming out here, 99 per cent of people wouldn’t dare to do what I did.”
Yarde, 28, had travelled 3,000 miles to deepest, darkest Chelyabinsk with just 18 professional fights to his name.
In contrast, Kovalev had already made five defences of his world title when Yarde made his debut in 2015.
But recent defeats by Andre Ward and Eleider Alvarez had given the Brit encouragement.
Kovalev, however, showed he remains a force with victory set to earn him an £8million pay day against Canelo Alvarez.
The champion looked to establish his authoritative jab from the first bell.
And when the visitor did land, Kovalev answered immediately with every shot roared on by his partisan crowd.
By the halfway stage Kovalev had built up an insurmountable lead – but Yarde always knew he needed a knockout to win.
He was on the verge of achieving just that when the bell for the end of the eighth round handed Kovalev a lifeline – and he took full advantage.
“He’s strong and he has a good defence,” said Kovalev. He just doesn’t have enough experience.
“One hundred per cent he will be a champion.”