LAS VEGAS • Amir Khan suffered a knockout every bit as brutal as the first one of his career in Las Vegas on Saturday when Saul "Canelo" Alvarez threaded a chilling right hand on to his briefly exposed jaw in the sixth round to leave the British boxer senseless on the canvas for a couple of worrying minutes.
"I'm all right, I'm all right," Khan told his concerned corner after rising - but the tears flowed as he leant his head on the shoulder of his trainer, Virgil Hunter.
He knew a split-second lapse in concentration had undone all his good early work at the T-Mobile Arena, as he "dared to be great" by going up two weights to challenge the Mexican for his World Boxing Council middleweight title.
They shared anxieties, but in differing forms: Khan's in concern for his chin, Canelo perhaps worried he would run out of time if he fell too far behind. As it happened, the Mexican timed his fight to perfection.
"I got in the ring with a big guy, but this is boxing," Khan said after the fight, looking suitably recovered. "I want to be the best. I want to fight the best, but my natural weight is 147 (the 147lb category)."
Canelo, admitting he had been in a tricky engagement before pulling off a peach of a punch, said: "I knew time would come to my favour."
At ringside, the man considered by many as the best 160lb fighter operating today, Gennady Golovkin, watched his rival's work with interest. "I will fight him later this year," Canelo said to the raucous cheers of his supporters. "Viva Mexico!"
For Khan, there is the consolation of dropping back down to welterweight, where he is the mandatory challenger for Danny Garcia's WBC belt.
"I'm okay, everyone," he said from hospital, through the promoter Oscar de la Hoya. "That's boxing for you. Congratulations to Canelo. Much love to all the fans."
De la Hoya declared that Khan would be back to challenge for world titles, but not at middleweight.
"Amir Khan is one of the bravest fighters on the planet. He didn't lose anything today. He will come back. I'm telling you one thing, he can beat anyone at 147 (lbs) or 154," de la Hoya said.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE