Kubrat Pulev moved a step closer to an IBF world heavyweight title shot against Anthony Joshua after he defeated Dereck Chisora via a split points decision for the European heavyweight title on Saturday.
The Bulgarian defeated Joshua's fellow Briton Chisora by scores of 116-112 and 118-110 to 115-113 in a clash between two former world title challengers at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany.
Pulev is now one win away from securing a shot at the IBF crown after a tidy and efficient boxing display that should have earned him a unanimous victory.
Both Chisora and Pulev have unsuccessfully challenged for world titles against the Klitschko brothers. Chisora lost a unanimous decision to Vitali Klitschko for the WBC belt in 2012, while Pulev was knocked out by Wladimir in the fifth round for the IBF belt in 2014.
On this evidence, neither will worry any of the current world title holders too much. One of them, Manchester's WBA-WBO champion Tyson Fury, was ringside to see Pulev control the fight behind his jab.
Pulev (23-1, 12 KOs) must still come through an eliminator to earn the right to fight Joshua, who defends his IBF title against American Dominic Breazeale in London June 25. Either New Zealand's Joseph Parker or Cameroonian-Frenchman Carlos Takam, who meet in Auckland on May 21, will face the winner of Joshua-Breazeale with Pulev -- now ranked No 2 with the IBF -- next in line.
Chisora (25-6, 17 KOs), 32, will find opportunities limited after suffering his first defeat in six fights. Chisora has twice lost to Fury and was also stopped by former WBA champion David Haye in 2012.
There were no knockdowns and it was far from a thriller, with Pulev winning nearly every round and Chisora unable to offer many threatening moments.
Pulev, 35, landed some good blows with Chisora trapped against the ropes late in the fourth round. The Bulgarian boxed behind his jab and in the fifth landed big overhand rights on Chisora.
The Londoner seemed out of ideas by the halfway mark and was frustrated in round eight when he clashed with referee Manuel Oliver Palomo, complaining about Pulev's use of his head.
Zimbabwe-born Chisora, who went berserk at Friday's weigh-in after being hit by a plastic bottle, increased his volume of punches in the ninth round as Pulev faded.
But Pulev's spearing jab saw Chisora, who finished the fight with a swollen right eye, pressed against the ropes for much of the last two rounds.
When Chisora raised his hands at the end of 12 rounds, Pulev just laughed. That one judge saw the fight in Chisora's favour was also a joke.