After Andre Ward unexpectedly ran through the field of Showtime's Super Six Super Middleweight tournament, there didn't seem to be many stiff challenges left on the horizon for the undefeated 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist.
A division north, the outlook was similar for fellow American, Chad Dawson, who had no marquee fights on the radar after capturing his lineal light heavyweight crown from Bernard Hopkins.
After Dawson expressed willingness to move down to 168 pounds, a premier fight between two division champions was born and was thus staged Saturday night in Oakland, California.
Expected to be Ward's toughest test as a professional, Dawson was anything but. Ward scored three knockdowns en route to a tenth round TKO.
Those weren't the only fireworks of the night; in the co-feature, lightweight belt-holder Antonio DeMarco emphatically cut short his fight with John Molina Jr. with a first round TKO victory.
In front of a rabid crowd of nearly 9,000, seemingly all cheering for Oakland's Ward, both boxers started tentatively in the first round. Since the card's inception, the boxing community had long been fearful of a boring, overly tactical bout but those fears were quickly dispelled in the second round when the left hand of Ward began finding a consistent home over the top of Dawson's low right.
With the crowd in a frenzy, Ward started to settle in. Dawson never seemed to get quite comfortable and the roaring crowd fueled Ward's momentum in what became an unexpectedly one sided affair.
Not known for heavy hitting, Ward knocked Dawson down in the third and then piled on with an onslaught that looked like it could have forced a stoppage from referee Steve Smoger.
The bout continued, but the pattern remained the same, with Dawson going down early in the fourth and then late in the tenth. Nearly every prognosticator predicted the contest to be decided on cards, so the biggest shock of all came when Smoger waved the fight off to the seeming approval of Dawson and the delight of the crowd.
It was an emphatic defense for Ward and his trainer Virgil Hunter, their first since the duo was named 2011's top boxer and top trainer by the Boxing Writers Association of America [BWAA].
Ward was mum afterward on what lies ahead, insisting his thought process had only revolved around Dawson during the past few months. While a new network star may have been born on Saturday, the landscape for viable contenders looks barren at best and it remains to be seen who can beat Andre Ward.
With the win, Ward advanced his record to 26-0 (14 KO) while Dawson dropped to 31-2 (17 KO) with the loss.
While most of the adulation and attention was focused on the main event, initially, it was the co-feature that seemed to portend the most action.
On that promise, WBC lightweight champion Antonio DeMarco delivered in the most unexpected of ways, overwhelming title challenger John Molina Jr. for a stoppage victory in the very first round.
A straight left landed for DeMarco (28-2-1, 21 KO) in the middle of the ring, which sent Molina careening backward into a corner. DeMarco was in hot pursuit and unleashed on a clearly stunned Molina (24-2, 19 KO).
Rather than take a knee, Molina went into a crouch that left him defenseless. Despite never knocking his opponent down, DeMarco scored the TKO 44 seconds into the opening frame.
In other undercard action, undefeated heavyweight Malik Scott turned in a typically boring performance, shutting down slugger Bowie Topou before Topou's (22-2, 16 KO) elbow injury forced a TKO stoppage in the eighth round.
It was just the second stoppage win for Scott (35-0, 12 KO) in 21 fights. The taller, lankier Scott controlled all the action, almost exclusively with his jab, while staying on the backfoot.
Scott has found a niche on undercards, competing in six and eight round bouts while compiling a glossy undefeated record that hasn't garnered him any sort of title challenges, in fact he has remained almost completely out of the discussion in a scarcely talented division.
Another contest featured Ricardo Williams Jr., a silver medalist at the 2000 Olympic games and one of the major boxing busts of the decade,
After having his career derailed by unexpected losses and a stint in prison for cocaine distribution, the Williams Jr. comeback attempt rolled through Oakland, as the Cincinnati southpaw faced brave but outmatched Anthony Lenk.
It was a seemingly dominant performance for Williams Jr. (20-3, 10 KO), who held off the hard charging Lenk (14-2, 7 KO) with sharper, more accurate punches. The real drama came on the scorecards though, with the judges ruling the bout closer than expected. Williams Jr. ended up walking away with a hard-fought majority decision in an entertaining six round bout.