Jeff Horn's shot at a middleweight world boxing title appears to have been wrecked after he was outboxed and stopped in the ninth round by Victorian Michael Zerafa in Bendigo.
The former WBO welterweight champion was dropped in the second and ninth rounds, before a barrage of shots following the latter knockdown prompted the referee to halt the bout at Bendigo Stadium on Saturday night.
Zerafa utilised his jab superbly and moved well, rarely allowing Horn to get inside and pressure him, earning himself a regional title.
At the time of the stoppage, Zerafa was ahead by three on two judges cards and seven on the third.
"I'm not surprised," Zerafa said.
It was Horn's first loss to an Australian professional.
"I'm a bit shattered … I just felt really sluggish,' Horn said.
Horn started to assert himself in the third round, landing his first significant shots, but was also cut over his left eye following a head clash.
Horn got tagged with some more rights in the fourth round and Zerafa was popping his left jab into the Queenslander's face.
Horn worked his way back in the fifth round and started the sixth round well but the Victorian came back strongly near the end of the latter round.
Zerafa landed some more big rights in the eighth and by the end of that round he was showboating to the crowd.