Canadian boxer Troy Ross saw his cruiserweight title bid turn from promising to over in a matter of two minutes in a strange ending Saturday in Neubrandenburg, Germany.
Steve Cunningham was declared the winner by a technical knockout before the fifth round, after Ross suffered a cut at the corner of his left eye.
With the victory, the Philadelphia native regains the 195-pound International Boxing Federation title.
Ross (23-2, 16 knockouts) said in an interview in the ring after the bout that he'll be back, but the loss will undoubtedly be frustrating. The Brampton, Ont., native, who turns 35 next month, has endured long layoffs in his career due to cancelled fights and promotional disputes.
The southpaw Ross brought some excitement to what had been a tentative affair by driving a straight left through Cunningham's guard in the middle of the fourth round, sending the American to the canvas.
Cunningham got up quickly, and seconds later Ross recoiled as if thumbed in the eye, but referee Bill Clancy did not react at the time to the Canadian's distress.
Between rounds, the ring doctor and Clancy deemed the cut that had opened was too serious for Ross to continue, and had been caused by a punch.
In many jurisdictions, should a fighter not be able to continue after four rounds due to an accidental foul such as an unintentional thumb, the fight would go to the judges' scorecards.
Saturday's result will likely have conspiracy-minded fans talking. Cunningham was signed in recent months by Sauerland Promotions of Germany, which also represents some cruiserweight contenders from that country.
Cunningham (23-2, 12 KOs) lost the IBF belt 18 months ago to Tomasz Adamek, who has since moved up to the heavyweight division.