Billy Joe Saunders’ bid to win over America looked set to end in jeers until he pulled out a late stoppage to retain his world title.
The super-middleweight had vowed to use his opportunity on the undercard of KSI’s rematch with Logan Paul to expose his talent to a new audience.
But after a string of knockouts earlier in the night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Saunders had bored the crowd into silence – barring the occasional booing.
He finally clicked into gear however in the penultimate round, dropping Marcelo Coceres three times before the fight was waved off.
Saunders admitted his performance was not up to scratch.
He said: “There’s no excuse, that performance was not worthy of Canelo or any of the other big names.
“I knew by round nine that I had to get him out of here. My timing wasn’t right, my head wasn’t right, nothing was right.
“I’m not one for excuses. I needed to let him gas out then attack. I’ve got the win and I’ve got to thank the American fans and I hope they tune in again because that wasn’t the best of me.”
Saunders was defending his title for the first time having won it by beating Shefat Isufi at the home of Stevenage FC in May.
The traveller has endured a troubled last 12 months having vacated his middleweight world title after failing a drug test before his clash with Demetrius Andrade.
Saunders was then fined £100,000 after a video emerged in which he told a woman he would give her £150 worth of drugs to perform a sex act.
He later joined Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom stable as he eyes fights against the best at either 160lb or 168lb.
Argentina’s Coceres does not fall into that bracket and the fact that Saunders only arrived in Los Angeles a week before the fight suggests he knew it.
The Brit had promised to put on a spectacular show but the early stages suggested the fans – who had already proved to be impatient – would be in for a long night.
Indeed, they were more interested in the arrival and departure of Jake Paul – Logan’s brother – at ringside.
The unbeaten but largely untested Coceres was at least light on his feet and proved elusive in the opening rounds.
Saunders was limited to landing his southpaw jab and on more than occasion wandered low with his left hand.
Coceres enjoyed his best spell to date in the fifth round as he attempted to pressure the champion.
And by the halfway point he was slinging his right hand low as if no longer worried about what was coming back.
Saunders continued to look sluggish but his more impressive start meant he was still heading for a points win.
But he burst into life – and raised the crowd from their slumber in the 11th round.
A body short sent Coceres down for the first time and a crunching uppercut did the same in the subsequent barrage.
Both times the challenger rose but when he fell to the canvas for a third time, he was saved from further punishment.