The shock on Carl Frampton's face said everything. The towel had just come in from his corner when his fighting heart was still pumping, as the rest of his body betrayed him.
A career built on passion and desire ended with the same furious willing to achieve one minute, 40 seconds into the sixth round of his WBO super-featherweight title bout with Jamel Herring.
The Rotunda in Caesar's Palace, Dubai was a soulless place, as barren as the Arabian desert, and somehow it allied with the stark, cold reality from the opening bell on Saturday night that Frampton's great powers had waned and there was to be no fairytale ending to an incredible career.
The 34-year-old had reached for the chalice of Irish boxing's first three-weight world champion and found it poisoned by a combination of inactivity due to the pandemic and a few too many miles on the clock. Time will always have its way with fighting men.
Champion Herring, a former US Marine, stood five inches taller and bided his time - even despite a nasty cut over his right eye - as he picked off the leaden-footed Belfast man, flooring him in the fifth round with a left hand and then again in the sixth with a thumping left uppercut. Rising to his feet, the Jackal's dream was over and as Herring sought to finish his mission, coach Jamie Moore's act of compassion was the final moment of a career that has left so many amazing chapters.
As he exits the boxing stage that he entered as a seven-year-old, Frampton leaves a legacy as the greatest post-war Irish fighter, one of the few UK boxers to win world titles at two weights and an overwhelming sense of eternal inspiration to those who would seek to follow in his footsteps.
"I just don't have any more," sighed Frampton, who was disconsolate as he stood in the ring awaiting the official announcement of the verdict having donned a shirt emblazoned with the image of late coach and mentor Billy McKee.
This was meant to be what he would have regarded as his "greatest moment" but instead it was the saddest as he choked up in pain and frustration at the opportunity that had come too late in his career.
"I'm deeply upset because I wanted nothing more than to dedicate this fight to my former amateur coach Billy McKee who recently passed away," said Frampton. I said before that if I lost this fight I would retire and that's exactly what I'm going to do.
"I was disappointed with how it ended, with Jamie throwing the towel in but as a coach that's his decision and he has to look after the fighter's safety. I'd have fought until I got carried out.
"I have to give Herring a lot of credit because he had a really nasty cut, it was dripping right into his eye and I could see that and I thought I was going to give him problems and then he put me on my backside. Credit to him, I have a lot of respect for him.
"I couldn't get past his jab, not that it was an overly fast jab… maybe a few years ago my reactions would have been better."
When the initial bitter pain subsides, Frampton will reflect on a 31-fight professional career spliced with magical moments in victory and defeat such as world super-bantamweight champion before 16,000 people at Titanic Quarter; backed by 10,000 travelling fans in Manchester Arena on the night he defeated Scott Quigg; becoming a two-weight world champion with victory over Leo Santa Cruz for the WBA featherweight belt in New York; headlining at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas against Santa Cruz; topping the bill at Windsor Park before 22,000 fans; Fight of the Year with Josh Warrington.
Add in Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year in 2016 and that's a resume of full-throttle excitement and how his legion of fans loved every moment.
For Frampton the greatest moment of his career will be that evening at Titanic when he dethroned Kiko Martinez to lift the IBF world super-bantamweight title. The biting, chilly wind was in contrast to the fire and brimstone Frampton brought to the ring on the way to a unanimous points victory.
A clinical boxer with a chess grandmaster's mind, Frampton had spite in his gloves to partner the guile and it took him to incredible heights. The natural, down to earth charisma drew him the backing of his country. Whether in victory or defeat on sojourns to the Big Apple and Vegas, Frampton paid for the bar so all his supporters could have a post-fight drink with their hero.
It will be some time before we see an Irish fighter have such a following and the skills to allow those fans to live vicariously through the glory.
The debate over who is the greatest post-war Irish fighter will arise but surely there can be no doubt that Frampton's greatness surpasses all those who have gone before. Any suggestion, as some might, about Katie Taylor can be dismissed as that would be comparing apples with pears.
The Frampton roller coaster has come to a halt and everyone has enjoyed the remarkable ride.
"If you had asked me at the start of my career, I could never have imagined that I would achieve as much as I did," said Frampton.
"Winning the world title at Titanic with Tigers Bay in the distance was incredible. There could not have been a better stage to win my first world title.
"Then to have the chance of fighting at Windsor Park where I go to support the Northern Ireland lads - that was unbelievable."
The Jackal gave us all some amazing occasions to savour and he will be remembered as a true great fighting man.