In the final seconds of the fight that had humbled him, Anthony Joshua’s giant frame sagged against the ropes in front of the ringside rows of celebrities who had come to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to acclaim him.
He had no answer to Oleksandr Usyk any more and he knew it. He stood there, offering nothing in return, as his opponent’s blows rained down on him.
Usyk knew it was nearly over, too. The Ukrainian had heard the tapping that signals there are only 10 seconds of the round remaining.
And so in the end, he stopped throwing punches and stood there, stock-still, in front of the man he had beaten, not willing and not needing to impose any more punishment upon him. And then the bell sounded.
Joshua smiled weakly and waved his gloved hand in the air in a gesture of triumph. By then, his right eye was badly swollen so that he could barely see out of it.
It had been like that for several rounds. Usyk, a former cruiserweight champion who had only fought twice at heavyweight before Saturday night, might not have had the power to knock him out but he had hurt him badly. He had punished him relentlessly.
Joshua knew he had been beaten, too, by then but he had salvaged something. In front of 67,000 people, he had lost but he had not yielded.
It felt like the scene in Raging Bull when Jake La Motta, played by Robert de Niro, wraps his hands around the ropes as he stands with his back to them so that he will not fall under the barrage of punches from Sugar Ray Robinson.
In the end, La Motta is spared from the onslaught by the referee and as Robinson walks away, La Motta stares after him through unseeing eyes. ‘You never put me down, Ray,’ he shouts out. ‘You never put me down.’ It was not much of a consolation but it was something. And that was how it was on Saturday night. It was just about the only thing Joshua had left.
Because he has lost a lot. He has lost the three versions of the world heavyweight title that he held and he has probably lost the prospect of ever fighting Tyson Fury in the showdown that the sporting world has wanted to see for the last three years and which would have brought the two combatants an estimated £200m. All that has gone.
And there is more. Joshua has lost his reputation. Not his courage or his bravery because that was more evident than it ever has been on Saturday night as he fought on against an opponent whose superior skills he had no answer to.
He fought on even when he knew it was hopeless and that he had been outclassed.
But he has lost his reputation in so far that Usyk looked in a different league to him. Usyk made him look ordinary. He made him look limited. He made him look like the fighter his detractors have always claimed that he is: a big puncher but not a natural talent like Usyk or Fury.
A fighter who has been manufactured and finds it hard to adapt and innovate. Joshua is only 31 and he is supposed to have a rematch clause but would he really want to fight Usyk again after this? It is hard to imagine so.
In that way, Saturday night’s defeat hurts him more than the defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden in New York hurt him two years ago.
It was written off as a fluke and an aberration and Joshua avenged it in the rematch in Saudi Arabia soon afterwards. It was something that could be forgotten about. But nobody will forget this or the manner of this.
That is another reason why the fight with Fury may never happen. If Joshua can be so badly outclassed by a clever fighter like Usyk, then the odds are he will be outclassed by a clever fighter like Fury, too.
The manner of his demolition on Saturday night has taken away much of the mystery of Joshua-Fury. This was like watching the end of a film before watching the start. We know what would happen now.
How strange it seems now that Joshua was the picture of calm as he walked to the ring, sparring playfully with a security guard, high-fiving fans, shadow boxing as fireworks exploded and dancing to his entrance music before he climbed through the ropes to where Usyk was waiting.
The champion towered above the challenger, a reminder he had the advantage in power and reach as well as height.
When the contest started, Joshua’s nonchalance disappeared. He gave Usyk all the respect he deserved in the first round and the two men barely laid a glove on each other.
In the second, Joshua did catch his opponent with a left hook to the side of the face but Usyk rode it easily. The challenger looked lithe and comfortable, his footwork keeping him out of Joshua’s range.
The fight exploded into life in the third round when Usyk caught Joshua flush on the jaw with a slamming left hook that shook the champion.
In the fourth, Usyk rocked Joshua’s head back again with a stiff right jab. Usyk’s movement was more dynamic and Joshua’s own jab lacked conviction. Time and again in the fifth round, Joshua threw and missed.
There were traces in Joshua’s countenance of the bewildered look he wore during his defeat to Ruiz in New York but he did rock Usyk back on his heels with a solid straight right in the sixth round that snapped the challenger’s head back.
But by the seventh, Joshua was starting to look one-paced and predictable and he stumbled backwards when Usyk caught him flush with a darting left hook.
By the end of the eighth, it was obvious Joshua was being outclassed. He still carried the threat of his devastating right hand but Usyk was outboxing him.
That feeling continued through the ninth round and in the tenth Joshua was cut under his right eye and swelling starting to obscure his vision. Usyk sensed his chance but Joshua dug in courageously and took the fight back to Usyk.
Joshua desperately tried to unload his right hand but in the eleventh, it was Usyk who caught him again and again with the left.
The final round was the same. And so Joshua stood there and took everything that Usyk threw at him and he refused to buckle. He never put him down and in the midst of his humbling, it is hard to begrudge him that.