It was not easy to watch the last minute or so of Kell Brook's bold attempt to beat Gennady Golovkin in the final episode of the hot summer of boxing at the O2 on Saturday night.
The fight was stopped in the fifth round when Dominic Ingle, the man that has trained Brook for nearly 20 years, tossed a towel in the ring at the feet of referee Marlon Wright. It was not surrender, it was mercy, and Brook's complaints were swallowed as he was embraced.
Golovkin had chopped away at Brook's resistance from the opening bell, starting the fight a lot faster and with far more intent than most people expected. Brook had sustained an injury to his right eye by the end of the furious opening round, and it was that eye which limited his vision and left him vulnerable and ultimately forced Ingle to call it off.
At the end of the fourth round, Ingle placed a blood-smeared towel over Brook's head and then ducked his own head inside the desperate tepee, a move designed to avoid the corner microphones, to warn his fighter it was his last round. Brook was helpless on the ropes, but still wanting to fight when it was called off and his career was saved. Many boxers have taken less punishment and failed to ever reach their previous heights, and Golovkin is a man that ruins careers. Ingle's gesture might just have salvaged Brook's hopes of getting back to this level.
There was a sea of praise in the aftermath with Golovkin and his trainer, Abel Sanchez, insisting that Brook had been a great opponent. Brook returned the compliment before a trip to hospital and a scan that revealed a broken right eye socket. He will have surgery on Monday and will not fight again this year.
"We knew it was going to be hard and it was," Brook said. "To beat somebody that good you need two eyes and I was in trouble from the second. I couldn't see, and I knew then it was bad."
In round two, Brook caught Golovkin repeatedly with quick combinations and one particular right uppercut landed flush. The action delighted the crowd, but made no sense and now that we know Brook's vision from the right eye was fading the grandstanding effort makes a little more sense. It was, in reality, his last stand, a move made painfully necessary by his impaired vision and not part of some carefully maintained strategy.
Golovkin was accused of being sloppy by some purists, which seems harsh on Brook, and fails to capture the effort Golovkin had to put in. It is true that he was never hurt, never wobbled and never in trouble, but he had to fight in every round and in the second, for all the wrong reasons, he had to dig deeper than at any point in his professional career. Brook, meanwhile, displayed the guts that some fools believed he lacked.
There is no doubt that Brook's speed, heart and resistance shocked the Kazakh maestro, who talked after the fight of having to have a war and not a "boxing match" to win. Brook, by the way, took the type of punches that few of Golovkin's previous 35 victims have managed to absorb. However, his bravery failed to keep him from the list and he was added to the 23 consecutive stoppage wins, including the 18th in a world title fight by Golovkin.
"I'm still struggling to take it all in," said Eddie Hearn, the promoter, at the end of the fight as he stood in the empty ringside pit surrounded by the junk left behind after a big night of boxing. "I truly believed he could do it, but with the eye, there was no way that it could have gone longer. Kell took everything, my respect for him has increased." Hearn was visibly shaken by what he had seen from his seat, just five-feet of safety away, at ringside and that is because up close you can hear Golovkin's punches and it is both impressive and frightening.
As the respective camps left the ring, walking from the ringside to the mixed receptions in their dressing rooms there were other stunned faces left behind, veterans of previous nights when great boxers have shown up in British rings and delivered sobering beatings to our best fighters.
Golovkin left the most emphatic of messages and will deservedly never be forgotten by those present.
In the subdued aftermath I grabbed a few moments with Sanchez, the quiet man that has shaped Golovkin into such a damaging fighter, and he looked relieved that the fight and the week had come to an end.
"You know," he said, "Kell never knew how to lose and that made him a danger. Gennady is methodical and he was starting to hurt him. I'm glad Dominic stopped it. It saved him."
It was a raw night, the type of boxing night that is both a celebration of the brutal sport and a warning of its dangers.