Wladimir Klitschko insists his age and physical condition played no role in Saturday's knockout loss to Anthony Joshua.
Klitschko appeared to be finished when he went down in the fifth round, but he came back strong in the later part of the same round and then dropped Joshua hard in the sixth for a rally that shocked the 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in London.
Klitschko continued to come on strong and made it a very close fight - until the eleventh round, when Joshua caught a full second wind and unleashed a brutal uppercut and a big combination of punches to drop Klitschko for a second time in the contest. After a third knockdown that was followed by a big rally of punches as Klitschko was pinned against the ropes, the referee jumped in.
Now Klitschko has the opportunity to exercise a rematch clause, if he decides to go in that direction. He suffered a bad cut above his left eye which is probably going to take some time to fully heal.
Klitschko insisted that the 27-year-old champion remains "vulnerable" before, having long dismissed his points defeat by Tyson Fury in 2015 as an "off-night", saying he had no excuse this time around.
"I've always been a fan of AJ's talent since our sparring sessions. How he's going to develop, we'll see. He's vulnerable, and this may be something he will need to work on, but he's today's success," Klitschko said.
"He's the unified champion, so you have to respect it. It was a good fight. The fans enjoyed it. I wish I'd been the winner.
"AJ did a good job. He was trying, was focused, and even if he went down, he got up, came back. He managed to see my left hook and block it, so he was well prepared. I didn't have an off-night. I was in tremendous shape. All respect to Joshua."