Paul Smith produced the performance of his life only to be denied by a hugely controversial points defeat to Arthur Abraham in their WBO super-middleweight title fight in Kiel.
The 31-year-old from Liverpool shocked his opponent with a display of real guts and no little class, but got no reward from the judges.
Abraham was given an unanimous points victory, the scores 117-111, 117-111, 119-109, but those scores in no way reflected how tight the fight was.
Smith was beaten in two rounds by George Groves for the British title in 2011, but had since rebounded with four straight wins to earn a world title shot.
Abraham was a step up in class for the Briton, in his first fight outside his homeland, but he started with confidence, giving as good as he got in the opening rounds.
The home favourite stepped up a gear, but Smith responded with real heart and grit, keeping his head and landing some heavy shots of his own in the seventh.
Abraham noticeably tired as the fight wore on, but Smith had to – and did – survive a late assault in the final round.
A distraught Smith afterwards branded the judges’ scores “disgusting”.
“It’s the main thing I hate about boxing, I hate it,” he said on Sky Sports 2. “Judges outside the ring who have probably never fought robbing kids of life-changing opportunities. It’s just shattered my world.
“I believe I won the fight, the people at home can judge it was well.
“I felt I had done enough, I should be world champion now. I feel robbed. I’ve been waiting for the opportunity for a long, long time. I just want a fair crack of the whip and I didn’t get it.”
Smith’s promoter Eddie Hearn added: “Those kind of margins are disgusting. He deserved much more.”
And his trainer Joe Gallagher declared: “Let’s break the bank and get Arthur Abraham back to Liverpool.”