Nathan Cleverly suffered a points defeat to Poland's Andrzej Fonfara in Chicago as his bid to earn a world title fight took a major blow.
The 28-year-old Welshman looked to suffer a broken nose midway through the contest, and the impressive Fonfara took the unanimous verdict of the judges.
The Chicago-based fighter was given the verdict by 115-113 from one judge and by 116-112 from two.
The fight, for the WBC International light heavyweight title, was seen by both men as a stepping stone to bigger things, and it remains to be seen where defeat leaves former WBO world champion Cleverly.
Cleverly was smarting after being hit after the bell in the second round but he was on top at that stage.
Yet by the seventh round Cleverly had blood splashed across his face, his nose taking the biggest toll as Fonfara found his range.
Cleverly survived the round, and needed to take the initiative at that stage, but the damage done to his face changed the complexion of the fight, with Fonfara exercising control until the final bell.
Cleverly had gamely battled on and Fonfara afterwards described him as "a warrior" as the Polish fighter, backed by a large following, celebrated his win.
For Cleverly it was a third career loss, all of which have come in his last six fights.
Cleverly was taken to hospital after the fight to deal with the damage inflicted by Fonfara.
His promoter Eddie Hearn wrote on Twitter: " On the way to hospital with @NathanClev - broken nose and needs blood drained from his ear but is ok"
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