Tony Bellew's shot at becoming the first Briton to hold four world titles in a weight division ended in failure as Oleksandr Usyk produced a stunning finish in the eighth round at Manchester Arena.
The Ukrainian, initially cautious, exacting patience, was actually trailing on the cards, but eventually he closed the gap, found his rhythm around the midway point and landed a brutal left hook that lead off the jab to deck Bellew heavily, to which there was no getting up in time as referee Terry O'Connor waved the bout off while 35-year-old appeared dazed in the moments after.
The Olympic gold medallist could sense the finish coming, as he worked Bellew out after seven rounds of trying to catch up to him. Bellew was momentarily off balance and Usyk jumped on him to land his punches. A blisteringly fast one-two stunned Bellew and he followed up immediately to end matters conclusively.
Post-fight, he quickly stated he had given "everything" he had and warned heavyweights to stay away from the Ukrainian.
Usyk's struggled to tie the Briton down for the majority of the fight as 'Bomber' moved well to avert any early onslaughts. Usyk eventually closed the gap and targeted the Evertonian with stinging shots to ensure his IBF, WBO, WBA and WBC world cruiserweight titles were safe.
It was a definitive finish, befitting of a much-hyped champion, who is now expected to chase the glamour names of the heavyweight division.
Bellew retires at 30-3-1 and Usyk remains unbeaten in 16.
Anthony Crolla defeated Daud Yordan in a WBA World lightweight title eliminator to line up a world title shot at his old belt next.
Three-weight world champion Ricky Burns blasted Scott Cardle away in three rounds.
Josh Kelly took just three-minutes to get rid of Argentinian Walter Fabian Castillo.
Cruiserweight Sam Hyde was leading on the scorecards against Richard Riakpohre until his corner threw in the towel in the eighth round after sustaining damage to his left eye.