Amir Khan's ambitious plans for 2012 suffered a massive blow after he lost his WBA and IBF light-welterweight titles on a split decision to Lamont Peterson in Washington DC.
Khan was docked two points in the fight for pushing and the deductions proved crucial as he lost by just a point on two of the judges' scorecards.
The Bolton fighter will no doubt insist on a rematch due to the controversial refereeing of Joseph Cooper, but few would deny Peterson his moment of glory after a career-defining performance for the home-town hero.
It could all have been so different for Khan after he produced a dramatic start to the fight. In trademark style he wasted little time in landing spiteful shots and had Peterson hurt within the first two minutes.
He punched his way out of an early clinch and landed a fast combination that forced the challenger to the canvas, but referee Cooper called it a slip.
If Khan was denied his first knockdown another was not long to come as again his blurring hands caught Peterson cold and dumped him to the floor. There were echoes of Khan's victory over Dimitry Salita but Peterson showed great character to cover up and fight back.
It was more of the same in round two with Khan dominating the centre of the ring and punishing Peterson everytime he got in range and tried to land shots. There seemed to be no way back into the fight for the challenger with his opponent seemingly on the cusp of another early stoppage win.
But everything changed in the minute interval before round three. Peterson's trainer and mentor Barry Hunter, who had taken his fighter in off the streets as a youngster, gave his man an impassioned speech as he stood in the corner.
He certainly got the response he was looking for.
Straight away the Washington fighter was on the front foot throwing right hands and a big hook had Khan in real trouble. Roared on by the crowd Peterson poured on the pressure and it looked for a moment like he would record a knockdown of his own. The champion summoned up all his experience, however, to keep his distance and survive the onslaught.
The fight continued to swing Peterson's way in round four as he gained success to the body with hurtful shots under Khan's elbows. The man from Bolton had to do something quickly to regain control and to his credit he fought back with crisp jabs and combinations to keep the American off balance.
Khan seemed to have taken the sting out of the Peterson attack and in round five the challenger looked more sluggish and flat-footed, trudging into the champion's counters and taking unnecessary punishment.
By the middle rounds Khan had changed strategy, he appeared to be trying to tire out his opponent by using the whole of the ring and fighting on the retreat. He was having the final say in all the exchanges until another turning point came in round seven.
Referee Cooper had been on Khan's case from the outset for repeatedly pushing and finally lost his patience, taking away a point. Suddenly a round that Peterson might have edged looked 10-8 in his favour, and the knockdown from the first was evened up.
This gave Peterson all the encouragement he needed and suddenly he was making Khan fight his fight on the inside. Reacting once again to the fiercely patriotic crowd, he forced Khan back to the ropes and unleashed sustained barrages at anything he could put a glove on.
The action reached a crescendo in round nine, which will go down as one of the most entertaining in 2011. Peterson bullied the champion around the ring until seemingly running out of steam. Khan then responded brilliantly with a huge right hand that had the challenger on the brink of going down.
As the fight reached the later stages Peterson continued to dictate the pace with Khan just edging the quality of punches. But it was a risky tactic in America where the aggressor is often favoured, particularly when a fight is close on the cards.
If it was hard to divide the two fighters and leading into the 12th it was even tougher after more drama from Cooper.
Khan looked to be in control with Peterson winging away wildly and getting tagged whenever he stumbled into range. But just when the champion seemed to be saving his title on the cards, the referee stepped in once again and took another point off Khan for pushing.
It would prove to be the deciding moment in the fight with Peterson awarded just a one-point win on two of the judges' cards in a 111-114, 113-112, 113-112 split decision.
Who won on your card?