A knockdown fittingly provided the margin of victory in a Fight of the Year contender.

Relatively unknown Brandon Glanton emerged with authority on the cruiserweight scene after a split decision win over Efetobor Apochi in a fantastic 10-round war. Judge Nelson Vazquez (96-93) saw Apochi as the winner, overruled by judges John Mariano (95-94) and Mike Fitzgerald (95-94) who ruled in favor of Glanton in their Fox-televised slugfest Sunday evening at The Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The battle of cruiserweight knockout artists didn’t take long to heat up. Apochi used his jab early, while Glanton came to trade as he landed with right hands. Apochi tightened up his defense, to which Glanton—a former 288-pound defensive end at the college football level now competing as a cruiserweight—adjusted with left hooks behind the Nigerian’s guard.

Momentum remained with Glanton early in round two. The unbeaten Georgia product—now based out of Riverside, California and advised by former four-division champion Mikey Garcia—connected with a heavy right hand and a crisp left hook. Apochi adjusted midway through the round, landing jabs and right hands from long range but with mean intentions. A left hand by Apochi late was countered by a crushing left hook from Glanton.

Apochi took control in round three. The unbeaten Nigerian—now based out of Houston and trained by Ronnie Shields—found success with his right hand, while also riding out the incoming as Glanton’s punches suddenly lacked the impact they carried in the preceding rounds.

Fatigue appeared to begin to set in for Glanton in round four. The squarely-built American cruiserweight was still landing with right hands, but visibly stunned by a right hand to the ear. Apochi followed with a four-punch combination while also finding success with his right uppercut.

Glanton attempted to turn the tide in round five, catching Apochi flush with a straight right. Apochi shook off the blow and continued to let his hands go, outworking Glanton and landing the more telling punches throughout the frame as he grew alarmingly more accurate.

A fight with few lulls was met with two early in an otherwise memorable round six. Time was called when Glanton briefly jammed his right arm, shaking off the sequence and coming out of the break with a looping shot behind Apochi’s guard. Apochi was forced to turn away in pain after an errant body shot strayed low.

The frame ended with the bout’s [first] knockdown. Both boxers were landing heavy shots throughout the frame but it was Glanton who closed the show with a left hook and right hand that left Apochi wobbled at the bell. The ropes prevented Apochi from falling to the canvas, accurately ruled a knockdown by referee Gary Wiezla.

Apochi fought through the pain in a valiant round seven that saw Glanton pour on the attack in his first ever fight past six rounds. Both continued to land right hands seemingly at will, with Glanton carrying far more power on his shots at this juncture of the fight.

Glanton rocked Apochi on two separate occasions in an action-packed round eight, the first time Apochi has ever gone this deep into a fight. A left hook and right hand caught Apochi flush, with the Nigerian attempting to counter with a right hand though pushing the punch in comparison to what was coming back in return.

Apochi returned to the jab in round nine, working in his favor as he was able to better frame his right hand. Glanton showed a rock solid chin, though the same could be said of Apochi who absorbed several left hooks in the round. Apochi managed a long right uppercut that split the lower lip of Glanton, only for time to be called due to loose tape hanging off of Apochi’s right glove inside the final 30 seconds of the furiously paced round.

Both cruiserweight sluggers landed bombs in the tenth and final round. Glanton connected with a chopping right hand on the inside, with Apochi shaking off the blow to the point of sticking out his tongue and immediately responding with a right hand of his own. Apochi had the final say, rocking Glanton inside of the final 15 seconds but unable to land that final blow to provide a dramatic finish.

It wasn’t enough to preserve Apochi’s place in line for a cruiserweight title shot as he suffers his first career loss. He falls to 11-1 (11KOs), coming up just short two months after knocking out Deon Nicholson in the third round of their WBA cruiserweight title eliminator, also on Fox.

Glanton improves—in every sense of the word—to 14-0 (12KOs), scoring by far the biggest win of his four-year career.

Glanton-Apochi served as the chief support to locally-based interim WBA super middleweight titlist David Morrell (4-0, 3KOs) in a title defense versus Mexico’s Mario Cazares (12-0, 5KOs) in the Fox-televised main event.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox