Josh Warrington suffered the first defeat of his professional career as the heavy-handed Mauricio Lara produced a monumental upset by stopping the Leeds featherweight in the ninth round of his ring return.
In his first fight since October 2019, Warrington was sent crashing to the canvas in the fourth round by his little-known Mexican opponent and there could have been few complaints if the contest was halted there and then.
Warrington was on unsteady legs for the remainder of the fight and although he showed great courage to battle back, a succession of left hooks buzzed the Yorkshireman in the ninth before Lara closed the show with a one-two.
Referee Howard John Foster did not bother with the 10-count, immediately waving off the fight at the SSE Arena, Wembley, to leave Warrington's hopes of fighting one of the world’s top featherweights in ruins.
Warrington, who inflicted Carl Frampton's second career defeat in 2018, vacated his IBF crown last month after being informed a rematch against Kid Galahad would have to take priority over a unification showdown against WBA 'regular' title holder Can Xu.
It was anticipated he would take on the Chinese champion next, with this bout at the empty London venue – the first event to take place this year – viewed merely as a tune-up for Warrington, a 1-25 favourite with many bookmakers.
Without his usual army of fans in attendance, Warrington was cagey before the first knockdown swung the fight dramatically in Lara’s favour.
While Warrington slips to 30-1, Lara improves his record in the paid ranks to 22-2 thanks to his 15th win inside the distance in what was only his second fight outside his native Mexico.