Matthew Macklin's bid to wrest the WBA middleweight title away from Germany's Felix Sturm ended in heroic failure in the Lanxess Arena in Cologne on Saturday night.
The Birmingham-based Irishman dropped a split decision after 12 fantastic rounds with two judges favouring Sturm by 116-112 and the other seeing it 115-113 for Macklin.
Sturm's sharper work in the second half of the contest swung the fight his way after a blazing start by the challenger which had given him a real chance of pulling off a major upset.
Sturm is unbeaten in five years and was making his 10th defence in his second reign as WBA middleweight champion, on his own show in his home city.
But if the odds were stacked against Macklin, who had himself not tasted defeat since 2006, he shrugged them off in an explosive start in which he slung hooks to Sturm's body and made the champion cover up.
Far from blowing himself out, Macklin appeared to grow stronger as the early rounds progressed with Sturm relying on single, accurate shots to repel his opponent's continuous advances.
But Sturm finally got to grips with fight as it moved deeper into the second half, gaining control behind a stiff jab which had scarcely been in evidence in the opening stages.
Sturm enjoyed a big 10th round when a crashing uppercut followed by a right cross had Macklin temporarily in trouble, but the Irishman continued to fight back in pursuit of his dream.
Sturm caught the eye again in the last, finishing the contest with a furious assault which left Macklin almost out on his feet. Although both men claimed victory at the end, the verdict went with Sturm.