Under the stars on Eddie Hearn’s lawn, Dillian Whyte saw a good few more as he lay on his back, his arms flopped through the ropes and senses scrambled to all four corners.
After spending more than 1,000 days as the No 1 challenger for the WBC world title, he was bashed out of the queue by Alexander Povetkin in the most extraordinary fashion on Saturday night.
The fifth-round knockout via the Russian’s left glove was as brutal as it was unexpected, a one-shot explosion that left Whyte requiring oxygen and his title prospects in an even worse shape.
Thankfully, the Brit was able to leave the ring under his own steam but it remains to be seen when he will come again.
It certainly won’t be in the form of an immediate shot at the winner of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder early in 2021, as it would have been had this followed the plan. Goodness no.
And how that will sting. But he did have a rematch clause in his deal with Povetkin and Hearn, his promoter, quickly confirmed that Whyte requested on his way to the dressing room that it be triggered.
come not just because of what this second career defeat has cost him in the short term.
It will ache because of the fact that he was increasingly and conclusively dominating the fight.
Indeed, against an opponent who had previously held the world title, and before that an Olympic gold medal, Whyte was winning at a canter.
He had looked comfortable in the opening rounds, showing none of the rashness that undermined him in his only other loss against Anthony Joshua five years ago, and by the fourth he was battering Povetkin with force.
Twice he had him down in that session and then it all turned.
In technical terms it was a jab followed by an uppercut, but in reality it was a one-punch masterclass, with the knockout owing everything to the dip down to the left and the uncoiling to the sky, with the left driving through Whyte’s chin. He was out before he hit the canvas.
The mystery around Whyte for this fight surrounded his adaptation to a new regime.
By parting with long-time trainer Mark Tibbs early in his Portuguese camp and taking up with Xavier Miller, the fear was of a colossal, self-inflicted mistake.
But at first glance Miller had delivered Whyte in fighting shape – at 18st 6lbs, he was a full 19lbs lighter than the flabby impersonation that won at short notice against Mariusz Wach in December – and the early rounds also showed great promise.
He was composed, measured, winning through three reasonably uneventful sessions before then embarking on a fourth that made this fight seem a formality. A procession, almost.
He dropped Povetkin the first time by following a right behind the ear with a short left to the temple. At the close of the round, he dropped him even harder, with a big left uppercut. Povetkin suddenly seemed quite old.
Utter drivel, of course, and spelled out in that stunning finish.
Sympathy for Whyte is natural at this juncture.
He waited a long while for a title shot that might now never come and he was game enough to take the gambles of hard fights along the way, such as this one.
But it is nonetheless true that he had a chance to take the step to a title fight against Anthony Joshua last year and turned it down.
One can only wonder how he truly feels about the £4m he rejected on the grounds of the rematch conditions.
Now he must conclude the details for a rematch against Povetkin and hope that it plays out in a wildly different way to this one.