It was all guts but no glory for brave Luke Keeler, as he went out on his feet and swinging in Miami in the early hours of this morning.
The Ballyfermot man had the chance to become the first newly crowned Irish world champion of the new decade, but had his title tilt stopped short.
Demetrius Andrade managed to retain his WBO middleweight crown by showing the kind of killer instinct Keeler doubted he possessed.
The American stopped his challenger with one second to go in the ninth to register his fourth defence and career win number 30.
Andrade looked on course to victory with barely one second of the first round gone, dropping 32-year-old Keeler with virtually the first punch of the fight.
He had his foe down heavy again in the second and it looked as if it was going to be an early night for a fighter that somewhat ironically was looking for home runs on Super Bowl weekend.
However, Keeler showed real heart to recover and do himself justice in the following stanzas.
Then with the championship rounds approaching and a points decision seemingly on the cards, the fighter hoping to join Steve Collins and Andy Lee on the list of Irish WBO middleweight title holders, had the option to try and navigate his way to the final bell or to take risks and try and win the fight.
Having accused Andrade of coasting throughout the build up it was something the former St Matthew’s amateur was going to do. It was Hail Mary time!.
Pressing the action in search of a fight changing moment in the ninth he got caught big again.
Hurt but still on his feet he kept punching, but with one second of the round remaining the referee called a halt to proceedings and ended Keeler’s title attempt.
Keeler suffered the worst of starts being sent to the canvas with nigh on the first punch of the fight.
The Dubliner was smart enough and had enough about him to remain on his knee till nine.
Andrade came for the finish, but Keeler seemed steady on his feet and had some small success in the remainder of the round.
There was a knockdown in the second stanza too, this time it came at the end rather than the start.
The world champ was loading up looking for a big left hand, while Keeler was looking to pressure in bursts.
However, the Irish fighter was caught and dropped heavy with just under 20 seconds to go in the round. Standing still on the ropes he allowed the skills advocate to load up puncher style and land a big looping left.
So powerful was the shot that the Dub all but fell through ropes. This time he rose unsteady on his feet, but hung on to make the bell.
Pete Taylor was concerned in the corner following the round, but Keeler showed him the something he asked for in the third. He didn’t bank the 10 points on offer, but showed enough to ease his corner’s concerns.
By the end of the fourth, Keeler’s head looked completely clear and he had pockets of success with aggressive bursts throughout the next two rounds.
Come the end of the sixth three minute session ‘Boo Boo’ wasn’t looking anything like his slick self. He was loading up looking for single big shots rather than employing his usual combo approach. Although he was still doing enough to win the majority of the rounds.
Pete Taylor called for a big seventh from his charge and Keeler may have taken the round, but there wasn’t a massive momentum shift.
Keeler opened the eighth with a nice right and landed more punches than in any other round over those three minutes, although his southpaw opponent was a bit slicker in parts.
Trainer Taylor effectively called for Keeler to go big or go home going into the ninth, telling his charge a decision victory was beyond his reach.
The coach wanted him go out on his shield and he certainly did. The Ballyfermot man had his legs buckled with a left with just over a minute to go in the round.
He found the safety of the ropes and began trading with the two division champion. The superior timing and clearer head of Andrade meant he got the better of the exchange and at one point it looked like the referee might jump in.
Brave to the last Keeler managed to survive and looked set to see the 10th when he made it to the centre of the ring and heard the 10 second warning.
However, a more vicious than average Andrade landed a beautifully timed uppercut to test the Irish champions legs yet again and kick start an onslaught that ultimately lead to the end of the fight.
To his credit, Keeler kept swinging and fought right up and until the referee stepped in with a second of the stanza remaining.