Artur Beterbiev emerged victorious in a shootout with Britain’s Anthony Yarde to retain his WBO, WBC and IBF light heavyweight world titles in London.
The two men battled brilliantly in an epic eight-round back-and-forth.
Yarde injured Beterbiev in a stunning fifth round but was then taken out of the fight in the eighth after being knocked down by a powerful right hand.
Russia’s Beterbiev kept his knockout record at 100%, while Yarde’s wait for world honors continues.
“I could say it was a bad fight but I’m sitting here,” Beterbiev told BT Sport.
“Anybody in this division can hit and Anthony can too. He’s young and he’s got time and I hope he does well in the future.
“If I’m being honest, I was ready for all those hits and that’s why I could keep coming back at him.”
Yarde got ahead in the epic
Yarde was a huge underdog enter the contest, but will see his stock rise rapidly after an impressive performance that many might have thought beyond him.
A potential victory for the 31-year-old Londoner was compared to some of the biggest upsets on British soil, but the stage was certainly set for a classic as Yarde, dressed in white shorts with gold trim, was greeted in heroes by the OVO Arena at Wembley.
Despite being the defending champion, Beterbiev made a lightning quick entrance and was heavily booed as he did.
The first round was nervous for long stretches, with Yarde clearly wary of the renowned power of the 38-year-old Russian who had produced 18 knockouts in 18 fights.
But it was the Briton who landed first with a nice counter left hook that pushed Beterbiev back.
“Fight that guy” was Beterbiev’s corner cry and the unified champion tried to oblige, surging forward whenever he could.
Beterbiev’s face was flushed in the second thanks to Yarde’s excellent counter and when the Russian landed a sweet right hand, his opponent immediately responded with another left hook.
Yarde was then forced to force his way out of the corner after Beterbiev closed the distance beautifully, a feat he achieved throughout the fight.
The crowd, however, was firmly on Yarde’s side and his every shot drew a huge roar.
A powerful uppercut from Yarde caught the eye, but Beterbiev kept going, undeterred.
There was no rest for Yarde and he was stunned several times in round four as Beterbiev picked up the pace.
A shootout then broke out in the fifth as Yarde landed a huge right hand flush on Beterbiev.
The crowd were on their feet clamoring for a finish with Beterbiev clearly injured but the Russian threw himself into Yarde’s arms to gain a few vital seconds of recovery.
Yarde came forward in an attempt to end the fight, but Beterbiev retaliated in kind and unleashed a flurry of punches, leaving his rival rocking to his feet as the bell landed.
There was now blood streaming from Beterbiev’s left eye while Yarde’s was swelling with every passing second.
Yarde tried to replicate the shot that had Beterbiev faltering past the champion’s jab in the sixth, but this time his opponent was wise on offense.
Round seven produced more stunning action as once again Yarde came forward and seemingly injured Beterbiev.
But Beterbiev rounded the danger and masterfully turned the British fighter to trap him in the corner, where he then unloaded and a dazed Yarde could only hold on.
Yarde appeared about to fall, but stayed upright and was finally able to escape and see the trick.
The eighth round saw the final blows of an incredible fight. A tiring Yarde landed a left uppercut, but Beterbiev read it beautifully and landed a strong right hand.
Another followed to the Yarde floor and, as the challenger was able to get up, he looked to his corner, clearly hesitant to continue.
The referee let the fight continue but Yarde’s trainer Tunde Ajayi quickly made the decision to wave the white flag as Beterbiev bared his fighter.
Mixed evening for the Itauma brothers
Karol Itauma fell to his first pro loss against Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna in a big clash on the undercard.
Itauma and his brother Moses Itauma were seen as Yarde’s mainstay, with the siblings battling on the same map for the first time in their fledgling careers.
Karol was a heavy favorite in a fight for the WBC international light heavyweight title, but issued warnings of a potential night off in the first round as he was continuously scarred by Maderna rights.
After being rattled in the fourth round, Argentina’s Maderna made it pay with a simple straight left-right combination in the fifth that floored Karol.
Moses brought joy back to the Itauma family when he took 14 seconds to stop the Czech Republic Marcel Bode later at night.
It marked a brief but successful introduction into the professional ranks for the 18-year-old sensation, who is aiming to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history.
Mike Tyson currently holds the record after winning his first world title aged 20.