A devastated Liam Wilson has choked back tears after being "robbed" of a giant world title upset that would have delivered on a promise to his dying father.
The Australian's team have launched a protest after he floored WBO super featherweight favourite Emanuel Navarrete in the fourth round in Phoenix on Friday night, but then watched for what they claim was 27 seconds for the Mexican to regain his composure.
Wilson said he saw Navarrete's eyes "rolling in their head" after he hit the canvas.
But he admitted a crafty decision from the Mexican to spit his mouthguard - and a prolonged count - allowed him more time before the 26-year-old underdog came charging at him again.
Opening an $18 long shot, Wilson stung Navarette with a right jab to finish the round then clipped the 28-year-old - unbeaten in 32 fights and 10 years - with another signature left hook in the sixth round.
But with a partisan crowd at Desert Diamond Arena roaring him back to life, the two-division champ added a third to his tally when he eventually stopped Wilson with a minute remaining in the ninth round.
It capped a dramatic week in Arizona, where the Wilson camp also accused officials of cheating by tampering with the scales to ensure Navarrete made weight.
"He was robbed, definitely, he was robbed," Wilson's promoter Matt Rose of No Limit said, explaining that he hopes a no-contest is called after footage is reviewed.
"Liam should be a world champion. The count was long in that fourth round, everyone knows it was long. Top Rank, their own promoters, said the count was long.
"I hope the (Arizona State Boxing) Commission look at it the way everyone else saw it and they overturn the result to a No Contest so Liam gets another crack straight away."
A devastated Wilson struggled to speak through tears in his dressing room after the fight, memories of his late father front and centre given he had dedicated his world title crusade to him.
"I feel shattered; this has been a dream of mine since I was a kid and I've come up short," he said.
"If it's true that it was 27 seconds, definitely (I was) robbed. That's robbery.
"But I'm just a fighter; if my hand didn't get raised, I lost."
Victory made Navarette the 10th Mexican to win titles in three divisions.
"Liam is a great warrior; he came to win, led with that big shot on me and it stung me," he said.
"I was able to get myself up off the canvas and settle down."
Wilson's path to a world title shot was a winding one, knocked out in 2021 by Joe Noynay, winning their rematch and then prevailing against Matias Rueda to book a world title eliminator berth.
But he was promoted from that straight into the main event when Mexican star Oscar Valdez was injured, the Australian plucked to fight Navarrete for the title vacated when champion Shakur Stevenson missed weight and moved up in class.
In just his 13th professional fight and US debut Wilson quietened a hostile 5100-strong crowd and eventually earned their respect, the low-profile father of two set to return to Queensland with his reputation hugely enhanced.