Floyd Moore suffered big-fight heartbreak – but won the affections of his army of followers with a sensational homecoming performance.
Moore was stopped in nine brutal rounds in his British Masters showdown with Bulgarian Yordan Vasilev at Fareham Leisure Centre on Saturday night.
But the Fareham warrior served up one of the most memorable contests seen locally in recent years in a dramatic bloodbath of a battle.
The 22-year-old recovered from a first-round knockdown and horrible sixth-round cut after a clash of heads to somehow be leading the contest on the scorecards.
The end of a dramatic toe-to-toe war came in the penultimate round as Moore was sent reeling by a right, and a further barrage from Vasilev saw the referee wave the bout off.
How the contest had reached that stage, however, only Moore will know.
After being out on his feet in the first after being caught by a right over the top, the lightweight surged back into the contest against a similarly-gutsy opponent.
Moore refused to take a backward step as he was roared on by support which turned Fareham Leisure Centre into a bearpit.
That encouraged the former Titchfield amateur, who mixed jabs, hurtful hooks and pressure to send Vasilev to the brink.
The Bulgarian held on, however, and with both men soaked in Moore’s blood, delivered the win with 1min 43sec gone in the ninth.
Defeat was hard for the 6-3-1 man to take, but Moore emerged from the contest a hero who will have only increased his popularity and reputation as an entertainer.
Moore admitted his vision was impaired by a cut which required six stitches on professional boxing’s first return to Fareham since 1899.
But he showed a fighter’s spirit to continue, and he vowed there were more big nights still ahead in his career.
Moore said: ‘Losing is hard to take and at the time I thought I was just rubbish.
‘But the support I’ve received afterwards is almost better than if I had won.
‘My plan was to box but it didn’t work out like that after the first round.
‘I got put down and got up and I was unsteady on my feet.
‘He was using his head a lot and cut me in the sixth. It blurred my vision and I couldn’t see a thing out of my left eye.
‘The doctor asked if I could see and I told him “yes”, though. I’m a fighter and I wasn’t going to give in.
‘The outcome wasn’t the right one but I’ve learnt a lot from it.
‘I’ve come back from defeats and I was winning the fight. So I won’t quit now. I’ll come back stronger.
‘People know what I’m like. If this kept happening and I was getting hurt I would stop. But I’m here to entertain people and will be back in more great fights like this one.’
Moore’s trainer, Michael Ballingall, lauded his charge’s indomitable bravery and branded the contest the most exciting he’d seen since the days of Tony Oakey in his pomp.
He said: ‘To win so much praise in defeat shows what a character Floyd is.
‘When he came back at the end of the first round he didn’t know where he was. We had to get him back in the room.
‘So to continue for nine rounds in that kind of war and be winning shows what heart he has.
‘It’s the most exciting fight seen in Portsmouth since Tony Oakey was boxing.’