Matthew Macklin's world title dreams suffered a crushing blow as the odds-on favourite was knocked out in the tenth round of his WBC middleweight eliminator against Argentina's Jorge Sebastian Heiland in Dublin.
The Birmingham-born Irish fighter started well, winning the first rounds, but Heiland's all-action style started to wear Macklin down, who looked sluggish in comparison.
The tiring Macklin was 77-75 behind on all three judges' cards after the eighth round and tried to respond, landing a big shot in the ninth that Heiland (27) shook off.
It was all over soon after that though as Heiland pinned Macklin in the corner and a left-right hook combination sent the Irishman sprawling and ended the contest.
Macklin's hopes of securing a long-awaited world crown - he has lost three world title bouts - seem to be in tatters but he insisted he wouldn't rush to decide his future, despite the disappointment of defeat.
"I'd been tiring for two or three rounds before that [knockout] really. Maybe I burnt up too much energy early on, maybe I'm getting old," smiled the 32-year-old. "I just faded a little bit.
"I thought I'd need to be beating him if I was as good as I was [previously].
"Taking nothing away from him, he fought a smart fight. He was the younger, fresher man. When he upped it, I wasn’t able to. That was the difference.
"I'll have to analyse the performance and see where we go from here. I believe that at my best I'm world-class and capable of winning world titles."