Few outside of his own camp gave Kell Brook any real chance of upsetting the odds and toppling the mighty Gennady Golovkin on Saturday night.
And although he did ultimately come off second best, what a gutsy performance the Sheffield man put in.
Stepping up two weight divisions to trade leather with arguably the best pound for pound puncher on the planet in Kazakhstan’s Golovkin, and capture his WBC, IBF and IBO middleweight titles, was always going to be a tall order, and victory would have been one of the sports greatest upsets.
But Brook’s dreams were dashed in the fifth round when trainer Dom Ingle threw in the towel, after his fighter had picked up obvious damage around the right eye.
It transpired that Brook had sustained a broken eye socket, an injury which will see him undergo surgery today in Sheffield.
It was a good call from Dominic despite his actions eliciting a fair few boos from the onlookers, who had been wowed by Brook’s willingness to stand and trade with the unbeaten master who has now stopped all but three of his 36 opponents, including his last 23.
With Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, having hot-footed it down to the capital after finding the net against City earlier in the afternoon, joining the likes of former world champs Naseem Hamed and Bernard Hopkins at ringside, the atmosphere was white hot as the two gladiators made their way to the ring.
And the noise quickly became louder once the action got underway.
Challenger Brook didn’t have to wait long to find out just how much strength Golovkin possessed, a left hook slamming into his jaw and jolting him as early as the opening round.
Those who had predicted an early demise for ‘The Special One’ must have been salivating.
It wasn’t to be, though, and after weathering the early storm Brook hit back, several lightning combinations bringing roars of approval and leaving Gennady in no doubt that he had a fight on his hands.
By the end of the second though the heavy shots from the Kazakh were starting to leave their mark.
Brook’s eye was swelling increasingly and a buoyed Golovkin pressed forward .
Spitting out mouthfuls of blood on a couple of occasions, Brook was still scoring with fast replies.
But despite a willingness to mix it, Brook was coming off second best as Golovkin’s punishment sent him back towards the ropes with increasing regularity.
Recognising that his man was taking too much, and sensing another pace increase from Golovkin, Ingle rightly intervened to save his man for another day.
“Believe me, I hurt him,” Brook said afterwards.
“When you’re in a fight, you know... you can see every movement of a fighter and I saw his legs buckle a couple of times.
“I hope the fans enjoyed the fight while it lasted. I wished I could go on but when there are five of him, you don’t know which one to hit.”
A move to super-welterweight might be next up for Brook, who wants to face the winner of the upcoming contest between Liverpool’s Liam Smith and Saul Alvarez.
First, though, some recovery time is required.
Barnsley’s English super-feather champ Andy Townend saw his hopes of capturing the vacant British title dashed.
He came increasing pressure from Brentwood’s unbeaten Martin J Ward and having sustained a cut to the left eyebrow in the previous stanza, he was halted 54 seconds into the eighth round.
Having fallen behind early, Andy had made inroads into Ward’s lead by the end of the fifth before the Essex puncher, spurred on by the success of a jolting left early in the next, assumed the ascendancy once more and this time, with confidence growing, he never looked like allowing the game Townend to regain a foothold.
Doncaster’s WBC Silver super-bantamweight champion Gavin McDonnell stayed busy with an outing against Latin American opposition in the shape of Nicaraguan youngster Robin Zamora.
The 18-year-old southpaw had packed in eight bouts, six of which had seen him emerge victorious, since he first dipped his toe in the professional waters almost a year ago.
The Nicaraguans are from tough stock and seldom turn up just to make up the numbers and Zamora didn’t disappoint, despite slipping to a 78-76 eight-round defeat on the scorecard of Reading referee Jeff Hinds.
Catching McDonnell with regular purposeful lefts to the head, the visitor ensured that there was never too much daylight between the pair and it wasn’t really until the closing three rounds when McDonnell’s class began to tell, a particularly solid right uppercut in the sixth session bringing a whoop from his corner team and signalling a pace increase which ultimately saw the twin home by a two point margin.
Just five months after returning to the squared circle following an enforced lay-off of almost two years, Sheffield’s unbeaten former British, Commonwealth and European champion Kid Galahad stopped Rome’s heavier and vastly more experienced Emiliano Salvini in the fourth round.
Salvini, a 37-year-old veteran of 42 paid contests, had been given a count after touching down momentarily following a right to the head mid-way through the previous round.