Naoya Inoue beat Nonito Donaire by unanimous decision in a modern-day classic to win the World Boxing Super Series final in Saitama, Japan, on Thursday.
The 26-year-old superstar was taken the distance by Donaire, 10 years his senior, but was eventually awarded the victory to add the WBA (Super) bantamweight title to his IBF belt.
Over 12 bruising rounds, the momentum ebbed and flowed as Donaire put in a heroic performance that made a mockery of pre-fight predictions he would be dominated.
Eventually, home favourite Inoue took control of proceedings, knocking Donaire to the canvas with a body shot in the 11th round, and he was a worthy winner of the Muhammad Ali Trophy:
Inoue went into the final as strong favourite having finished Emmanuel Rodriguez inside two rounds in the semi-final and Juan Carlos Payano in 70 seconds in the quarters.
Donaire, though, was the fighter who controlled the opening stages. He took blows from Inoue that others may have folded under and set the pace:
In the fourth round, Inoue began to find his range, and in the fifth, he staggered Donaire with a left hook before almost finishing him with a huge right:
Somehow the Filipino-American survived to the bell, and he recovered somewhat before taking more punishment in the sixth:
Not for nothing, though, is Donaire a four-weight world champion, and despite looking finished at points in the fifth and sixth, he somehow turned the fight back in his favour.
He worked away at Inoue in the seventh round before unloading a double right hand that staggered his opponent in the eighth.
It was a quite brilliant response from Donaire given where he had been barely five minutes earlier, and by the end of the eighth round, Inoue had blood pouring from a cut above his right eye:
In the ninth, Donaire went to work again with his right hand, landing a shot flush on Inoue's chin. The Japanese fighter stood his ground, though, and flew out the blocks in the 10th with the clear intention to get the fight done.
And finally, Donaire's age seemed to show as he was pushed back by jab after jab and saved by the bell again.
In the 11th, a thunderous left to the body from Inoue finally sent Donaire to the mat. The veteran just made the count and somehow landed a counter punch amid a flurry from Inoue that slowed his momentum enough to make the bell.
Donaire came bouncing out of his corner for the 12th, in which he needed a knockout for victory.
He did not get it, and Inoue was fully deserving of his win after some quite phenomenal hitting and an admirable show of staying power:
But the defeated Donaire came out with equal credit for having taken one of boxing's brightest stars all the way in a thriller.