Oleksandr Usyk picked apart a courageous Derek Chisora to claim a deserved decision after 12 brutal rounds and remains on course for a world title shot against Anthony Joshua.
The magnificent Ukrainian dished out a treat on Halloween by showcasing a variety of tricks to suppress a determined Chisora and retain his WBO mandatory status.
The Briton immediately charged out like a bull enticed by a matador, throwing wide hooks to send the Ukrainian dancing into the ropes. No surprises yet.
Usyk settled quickly, finding his rhythm as his feet kissed all corners of the canvas, helping him to set traps for Chisora, who was always willing to close the gap and brawl. But the veteran quickly started soaking up a series of one-twos, which became metronomic as Usyk started to bank rounds.
The third fittingly saw the mysterious Usyk expand his box of tricks further, perhaps through necessity rather than desire as Chisora’s pressure forced a series of complaints to the referee as shots flirted with his belt line.
Usyk then sent several chopping shots to the body of Chisora before a swiping left hook staggered the Londoner.
Chisora, with close friend Tony Bellew barking encouragement from ringside, continued to storm forward though.
A puzzling character himself, Chisora provided the first major surprised of the night, switching briefly to southpaw in the fifth. It was evidence that seemed to defy Bellew’s previous claim that he could do this “all night” in an effort to reduce the wave of shots fired in his direction.
After Chisora could be seen breathing heavily in the corner after the round closed, Usyk maintained the need for the energy-sapping tempo, circling his rival and leaving a blur of white as his gloves stung him from an assortment of angles.
A maniacal grin then begun to spread over Usyk’s face, with Chisora finally relenting to the accuracy and conceding ground, evidently disorientated for the first time as the seventh came to a close.
The mind games resurfaced from Chisora as he switched up his stance once more, though Usyk was less spooked and more angered by the move, shelving his previously smooth work for a more disorganised, yet spiteful combination of shots.
Anthony Joshua pondered away at ringside, both immediately contemplating this peculiar environment devoid of fans ahead of his fight with Kubrat Pule, while perhaps also imagining what now appears to be an inevitable meeting with the mercurial Ukrainian.
Deontay Wilder finally broke his silence to sprinkle even more intrigue into this most compelling of heavyweight landscapes, with Tyson Fury defiantly marching on before the end of the year despite the initial plan for the pair to meet again.
Usyk adds another exciting piece to the puzzle though, with his ability to bring beauty to an otherwise brutal game, even if Fury has that potential, the WBC champion opted for a more brutal game plan to dispatch Wilder earlier this year.
A proud Chisora continued to force Usyk to work hard to dish out just enough punishment to maintain control, with his left hook the most trusted weapon of the night, but it was never going to be enough.
Yet despite capturing a comprehensive victory, doubts remain, even by Usyk’s own admission, he harshly gave his performance a “three” out of 10.
Joshua poses both power and speed, which may deny Usyk the option of charming the judges. Yet a telling remark afterwards offers a glimpse of the fighter he hopes to become.
In just his second fight in the division, it would be naive to believe this is the best version of Usyk we will witness. It is not merely about reigning in the most prestigious division, it is about conquering all, claiming that “undisputed” title once again.