Artur Beterbiev came out on top of a firefight with Britain’s Anthony Yarde to retain his WBO, WBC, and IBF light-heavyweight world titles in London.
The champion was aggressive throughout, marching in and looking to land heavy punches. But Yarde disrupted him, landing on occasions as Beterbiev came forward.
The first round was skittish for long stretches with Yarde clearly wary of the 38-year-old Russian’s renowned power, which had yielded 18 knockouts from 18 fights.
But it was the Briton who landed first with a lovely counter left hook that pushed Beterbiev backward.
Beterbiev’s face was reddened in the second thanks to Yarde’s excellent countering and when the Russian landed a sweet right hand, his opponent immediately responded with another left hook.
Yarde was then forced to fight his way out of the corner after Beterbiev did magnificently to close the distance, a feat he achieved throughout the fight.
The crowd, however, was firmly on Yarde’s side and every one of his shots drew a huge roar.
A strong uppercut from Yarde caught the eye, but Beterbiev continued to step forward, undeterred.
There was no rest for Yarde and he was stunned several times in the fourth round as Beterbiev stepped up the pace.
A firefight then broke out in the fifth as Yarde landed a massive right-hand flush on Beterbiev.
The crowd was on their feet baying for a finish with Beterbiev clearly hurt but the Russian threw himself into the arms of Yarde to gain a few vital seconds of recovery.
Yarde poured forward in a bid to end the fight but Beterbiev fought back in kind and unleashed a flurry of punches, leaving his rival swaying on his feet as the bell arrived.
There was no blood coming from the left eye of Beterbiev while Yarde’s was swelling with each passing second.
Yarde tried to replicate the shot that had wobbled Beterbiev by going over the champion’s jab in the sixth, but this time his opponent was wise to the attack.
And when the eighth round came we saw the final shots of an incredible fight. A tiring Yarde reached for a left uppercut, but Beterbiev read it beautifully and landed a strong right hand.
Another followed to floor Yarde and, while the challenger was able to get up, he looked back at his corner, clearly in two minds about whether to continue.
The referee allowed the fight to continue but Yarde’s coach Tunde Ajayi quickly made the decision to wave the white flag as Beterbiev bared down on his fighter.
On the undercard matches we also saw some exciting bouts. Heavyweight prospect Moses Itauma, who was the world and European youth champion when he was an amateur, made his professional debut on the undercard. He stopped Marcel Bode in 23 seconds after lining up two hefty left crosses to blast the Czech off his feet.
His older brother Karol Itauma lost to Argentina’s Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna. He was dropped by a brutal cross in the fifth round which left Itauma on the canvas and he was counted out at 1:04.
Artem Dalakian remained undefeated as he defended his WBA world flyweight title with a unanimous decision win over previously unbeaten challenger David Jimenez.