Tyson Fury survived a final round knockdown as he was forced to settle for a draw with WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in Los Angeles.
Fury clambered up from the canvas and seemed to have done enough to earn a points win, but was denied by the judges, with one scoring it 115-111 for Wilder, while the other made it 114-110 in his favour, with British referee Phil Edwards unable to split the fighters with a 113-113 verdict.
The 30-year-old had earlier defied fears about his long break from boxing, frustrating Wilder with his jab until he was floored in the ninth round, and Fury somehow made it through the 12th after being dumped heavily on his back.
Both fighters are now expected to meet again in a rematch, delaying the prospect of a fight between Wilder and unified champion Anthony Joshua for the right to become the undisputed champion.
During a frenetic opener, Wilder unloaded an early left hook on Fury, who responded with a crisp right hand in the closing seconds and raised his hands in approval.
Spitting out a string of jabs, Fury started to settle in the second round, and rammed in a right hand after a bout of showboating in the third.
Wilder edged forward menacingly in the fourth to deliver a crisp right hand, but Fury continued to frustrate the Alabama man with his stiff jab in the fifth.
A swelling around Wilder’s right eye was a clear sign of Fury’s accurate work in the sixth, while the ‘Gypsy King’ landed his right hand with regularity in the seventh.
With the fight drifting away from Wilder, he swung desperate punches at the end of the eighth, but the ‘Bronze Bomber’ exploded into life in the ninth as a chopping right hand sent Fury to the canvas.
Fury stood firm, sticking out his tongue defiantly at the end of the 10th, but after staying out of trouble in the 11th, he had to withstand a brutal right hand from Wilder, which salvaged the champion’s title on the scorecards.