Experience told in the end for Sergey Kovalev but not after surviving an almighty storm in the eighth round before rallying to knock out Anthony Yarde in a gruelling defence of his WBO world light heavyweight title.
Having been seconds away from being upset in his Chelyabinsk homecoming, Kovalev summoned the last existing resilience left to rally in the ninth before sending his younger opponent to the canvas in the 11th with a sickening left hook to clinch victory.
"I'm one of those people, I'm not ashamed or embarrassed. I'm very upset, I wasn't victorious," Yarde insisted afterward. "I did myself justice.
"Coming out here, 99 per cent of people wouldn't have done what I did. I'm very ambitious, I'll be back."
And Kovalev agreed, insisting Yarde would "100 per cent" become a world champion someday, though he was likely not of that opinion in the infancy of the fight, with Yarde happy to circle and Kovalev gleefully warming up his mesmeric jab, the action caught fire in the fourth, with the champion landing a sweetly-timed one-two. And the Brit began to walk on to his opponent’s left in the fifth, disguised initially as a set-up shot, but often having a bludgeoning effect.
Yarde rejected an offer of $1 million to step aside and allow Kovalev to fight pound-for-pound superstar Canelo Alvarez with the guarantee of a future fight against the winner.
Yarde and his team, including promoter Frank Warren, gambled, despite the enormous gulf in experience, having fought just 12 amateur fights and only 18 professional bouts, compared to the Russian’s 15 world title fights alone.
To Yarde’s credit, he remained unperturbed, and he summoned strength in the eighth round to suddenly move to the brink of stopping the champion, walking him down and laying on hurtful shots.
But after trainer Buddy McGirt threatened to pull Kovalev out before the ninth, his fighter rallied in a miraculous response: from almost out on his feet, the champion dominated the challenger to reverse the tide.
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And a now staggered Yarde, fighting on instinct, was put away with a clean swipe to the delight of the Chelyabinsk crowd.
Kovalev could now resume talks for a super fight with Canelo, while Yarde will be forced to regroup and drop back down a level.