Joseph Parker's career is in the balance after he suffered a second-straight unanimous decision defeat and was knocked down for the first time in his career.
Dillian Whyte was the deserved victor at London's O2 Arena – no doubt about that.
He was tough, resilient and showed more skill than most expected. He now looms as a title challenger for Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder while Parker must go through a potentially painful rebuilding phase.
Whyte put down Parker in the ninth round with a short left hook, and while he himself was put down in the 12th by a straight right from Parker, the New Zealander needed a stoppage to win it and couldn't quite finish the job.
United Kingdom judge Steve Gray scored it 113-112, Frenchman Christophe Fernandez 115-110 and Australian Phil Austin 114-111.
It was an entertaining fight and a far cry from Parker's loss to Antony Joshua in Cardiff in April – also by unanimous decision. Here Parker traded blows with Whyte, who showed his street-fighting background - and as a result was hit more than in any other fight.
There will be question marks about the headbutt in the second round that put Parker down. He didn't seem himself after that.
The momentum was with Englishman Whyte from the sixth round and perhaps the only comfort for Parker could be found in the fact he seriously hurt his opponent for the first time in two years.
Parker has never before been put down – as an amateur or professional – and while it was a crowd-pleasing display, there will now be a big question mark over where he goes from here and whether he deserves to be considered in the top echelon of heavyweights.
Promoter Eddie Hearn doubts Parker will return as a heavyweight force but Dillian Whyte says his opponent has the hunger and ability to do it.
Hearn said that such was the money the Kiwi made from the Anthony Joshua fight, coming back from two losses would be extremely difficult.
But Whyte thinks otherwise.
"Two decent wins and he's back in contention in the division again," Whyte said. "I've got a lot of respect for him. He's got a good jab. He seemed to fall apart in the later stages of the fight but in saying that he put me down in the last round."
Parker's promoter David Higgins believes a Whyte-Parker rematch could be a possibility but Hearn poured cold water on that too, saying "It's probably not at the top of the list."
His man could fight Anthony Joshua at Wembley in April.
Parker's finish was virtually the only positive of the fight for him. He started well but then the momentum shifted completely towards Whyte – just as it did in the Joshua fight in Cardiff.
"I fought someone very experienced," Whyte said. "He did exactly as I thought. He's tough as well, I hit him with some big punches. I hit him with that left hook but he got up. He's a tricky operator as well.
Asked if he was "hungry" enough, Whyte said: "He was hungry. When I hit people they don't usually get up but he got up."
Asked about Parker's power, Whyte said: "His power is good. Listen, he's got 18 knockouts. I didn't see the punch coming. It was a good punch and I got hurt. I showed experience. The last time I did that I fought on. This time I took a knee."
Whyte said Parker "buzzed" him with a straight right in the 12th. But after also being down in the second after what appeared to be a headbutt, Parker needed a stoppage to win it.
The 26-year-old Parker had the early running; loading up the right hand in an aggressive but calculated display.
In the third he was more circumspect, not surprisingly after the headbutt, in what was a very even round. Whyte was content to sit behind the jab.
Whyte received the first of several warnings for trying to push Parker over the ropes and pawing at his face with an open glove as the fourth round caught light.
The fifth was another entertaining round. Parker appeared to hurt Whyte for the first time but couldn't follow up and Whyte came back strongly and the rest of the fight was his apart from the 12th round.
Parker bounced straight back up after being knocked down. Whyte raised his hands and took his time for the rest of the round knowing probably that Parker needed a stoppage to win it.
Whyte was hitting Parker almost at will now. Parker rallied and scored with two left and right combinations but didn't hurt Whyte at all and the momentum of the fight was firmly with the Englishman.
Parker poured on the pressure in the 12th in what was a brave rally. He hurt Whyte in a neutral corner, but couldn't follow it up but sent his opponent down with a straight right. It wasn't enough.
The pair embraced afterwards; the "trash talk" in the build-up forgotten.
In the main undercard fight, Dereck Chisora knocked out former Parker foe Carlos Takam in the eighth round.
Chisora was behind on points but sent Takam to the canvas with a crashing overhand right and followed it up with another massive right hand after the Frenchman, who didn't look fit to continue, got up. It was a popular victory and an extremely entertaining fight.
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