Michael Hunter's bid to claim the IBF super bantamweight title ended in heartbreak when he was stopped by Canadian Steve Molitor in Hartlepool.
Hunter was on the receiving end for most of the bout in Hartlepool
Hunter hit the canvas for the second time after a fierce right from Molitor in the fifth round and was counted out.
The hometown hero had attempted to take the fight to Molitor but the visitor proved a class apart.
Hunter said: "I thought it was a good fight until he caught me with a really good shot - but I proved my worth."
Despite a record of just nine stoppages in his 22 previous wins, Molitor's sharp punching put Hunter on the deck for the first time in round four.
Hunter had always vowed to fight in the only way he knew - ploughing straight into Molitor in the same style that had brought him to his 26 previous wins.
I held my own for five rounds and I'm not going to say the better man won on the night
But right from the start it was clear Hunter's 26-year-old opponent would provide a tougher challenge.
Molitor immediately settled into his neat southpaw stance, and a succession of superb hooks and a right uppercut drained Hunter.
It was no surprise when Hunter went down again from a fantastic left hand in the fifth, and referee Phil Edwards counted him out.
"Hunter's a great competitor and he'll be back on the world scene in no time," Molitor said. "This is the most hostile territory I've been in and it took a bit of time to shake off the rust."
Hunter added: "He's a world-class operator and has been for four years. I've only been world-rated for a year.
"I held my own for five rounds and I'm not going to say the better man won on the night. Michael Hunter on his night would have beat him.
"But that's boxing, one punch turns the fight around. I've had a fantastic year. I was only British champion just over a year ago. But I'll be back straightaway."