THE STORY of the fight was simple from the moment it was announced: Could Leigh Wood avoid getting knocked out by Mauricio Lara?

Wood survived until about the final 20 seconds of round seven, when he was caught clean with a beautiful left hook.

Wood was out cold when he was dropped and came back when his head hit the canvas. The punch was perfect, a short left hook thrown at the moment Wood tried the same shot. Wood’s high right hand guard was in place, but the punch slipped in front of the glove and landed in the sweetest of heartbreaking spots.

He moved at about three, started to get up and regained his feet at the count of seven or eight. He had 12,000 people willing him to stand, fight and win. It was not enough on the night.

He was stiff-legged as he nodded at Mike Alexander’s questions. The referee watched as Wood held his hands up, but that is a reflex and he still looked unstable. Lara, meanwhile, was not off in a distant corner, he was not staring down at his own corner for advice – Lara knew exactly what to do to make his dream come true: attack, it was simple, and he edged closer. Wood, it must be said, did nothing at that point to prolong the delay; he never went for a walk that would have gained him valuable seconds, he never spat out his shield, he never even tried to move from the place where he was standing. Wood was heavily vulnerable and at that moment he was a helpless target.

The fight froze and for a second, which lasted a lot longer, there was a moment when everything stood still. Lara poised, Alexander poised, Wood desperate, the crowd up, the ringside faithful staring in hope and then in that moment, Ben Davison climbed up the steps and launched a white towel of surrender at the referee. The fight was over.

Davison told me in the ring, just minutes after the fight’s end, that he had no idea how long was left in the round when he threw in the towel. There was, officially, only six seconds, but it was probably more like nine when he chucked the blood-stained towel. It was dramatic. Some booed, some cheered, most just looked on in amazement. Wood was in front, in control and happy, but that changed when Lara connected.

It was incredibly tense and a privilege to witness just six feet from the edge of the canvas. Lara is even scarier at that range and from that position and all of Wood’s work was even more impressive. He used his feet, a high guard, his movement and picked his way to a strong lead. The concentration from Wood was exceptional; he knew the left hook had to be taken away from Lara and for six rounds and about 160 seconds, he managed to do it. And he did it in style.

The fight was not fought at a ridiculously fast pace, but the rounds zipped away. The opener was cagey from both, Wood confident and looking to land his own right hand if Lara missed with sweeping left hooks. It was the champion’s round. However, in the final seconds, Lara’s head opened a cut above Wood’s left eye. It was bad enough to flow for the remainder of the fight.

Wood was hit and stunned at the end of the second and went back to his corner hurt. In the third, Wood put together a succession of good, straight rights – a simple punch against a man missing with a left hook. Wood regained control, and a pattern was set. Lara was still laughing at the end of the round, He could smile, but he was 2-1 down. Lara does a lot of smiling.

Leigh Wood and Mauricio Lara go to war (Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing)

Wood took a great right and left in the fourth, came back with his own right and at the end of the round, Lara was breathing with his mouth open; Barry Jones, next to me on BBC Five Live duty, wondered if Lara had injured his jaw.  The cut, by the way, stayed closed for most of the rounds and only started to run in the final minute or so. In the corner, Jumbo Johnson, who was on duty with magic swabs, was working his craft, keeping Wood in the fight.

In the fifth, Lara started to look a little lost, started to look like he was feeling sorry for himself. He had complained many times about Wood hitting him low. Wood started the sixth by rallying his faithful and then he won the round in style. Lara just couldn’t land the left hook. I made a note on my sheet: ‘Wood got greedy’. He did and that was always going to be a problem.

Leigh Wood is one of the most old-fashioned old-school fighters. He has had very few breaks. We all know he has been the underdog – he was again against Lara – and he has won fight after fight. He gives his heart; he is easy to read and impossible to dislike. I feared for him before the fight, but by the bell to start round seven, I truly believed that he would win. No after timing from me, sorry.

In the seventh and final round, Lara complained again, Wood looked comfortable and big and strong and then he relaxed for a fraction of a second. The fight was over, Lara pounced with the left hook.

Wood was unhappy with Davison. Lara challenged Josh Warrington at ringside, insulting him and spitting at his feet. In the ring, Eddie Hearn confirmed the rematch clause. Warrington also wants Lara for a trilogy fight. There was a debate over Davison’s use of the towel and, strangely, both sides were willing to listen to the other side. “It should never have been stopped, but I understand why,” Carl Froch told me. Many at ringside were as dazed as Wood at the sudden end and that is always a sign of a truly great fight. Wood later agreed with Davison’s decision and praised him.

There was a point where both the winner and the loser were in tears, in the arms of the men that care for them. It was raw at the end – raw and truly unforgettable. Lara had a world title, something that looked like an impossible dream two or so years ago. They will both be back, maybe together and maybe not.

“This fight,” Hearn told me, “is a reminder of just how good our sport is when it is done well.” It was also a brutal reminder of just how cruel it can be.

THE VERDICT: A superbly matched contest delivers in every way.