Joe Joyce suffered a crushing defeat by Zhilei Zhang after a sixth-round stoppage at the Copper Box Arena in London.
The referee, Howard Foster, called off the contest with Joyce sustaining significant swelling to his right eye as China’s Zhang secured the WBO interim heavyweight title.
Londoner Joyce, 37, had been expected to successfully defend his position as WBO interim champion and maintain his unbeaten record in his 16th bout. But the 39-year-old Zhang’s straight left hand did the damage, leaving Joyce on unsteady legs as early as the opening round.
The ringside doctor examined Joyce’s damaged eye before the start of the sixth round, and he was called for a second time during the same round before Foster stopped the fight.
“I am disappointed with my performance,” said Joyce, the 2016 Olympic silver medallist. “It was a good fight, but I could have done better.
“I have not fought against a southpaw for so long. Credit to him. He is a good fighter and I gave it my all. But I expected to win. I would like to apologise to all my fans and my supporters. I will be back and my journey is not over.”