Anthony Joshua avoided a broken nose but was left to reflect upon the stains of battle after a 10th-round stoppage of Carlos Takam in Cardiff to retain his WBA and IBF heavyweight titles.
Joshua is the handsome and handsomely remunerated poster boy of boxing's glamour division but Saturday's fight at a sold-out Principality Stadium in Cardiff offered a stark demonstration of the punishing brutality at play when the sport's big men collide.
It was a collision with the top of Takam's head that caused Joshua grief in the second round, his nose oozing blood over his mouth by the end of the session.
The 28-year-old, whose perfect professional record now stands at 20 fights and 20 knockouts, told a post-fight news conference his nose was "busted" rather than fractured and insisted he viewed the blow against Takam's skull to be accidental.
Such a cordial tone stood in stark contrast to the punishment the squat 36-year-old challenger absorbed for most of the action after the early flashpoint.
Takam's robust, come-forward style meant Joshua was rarely close to his stylish best, but a chopping left put the stocky veteran down towards the end of round four and he was twice examined by the ringside doctor due to deep cuts around both eyes before the end came.
Large sections of the 78,000 crowd - a world record for an indoor boxing event - booed referee Phil Edwards for sparking Takam from his own bravery, with the Cameroon-born Frenchman visibly frustrated not to have seen the final bell.
Joshua now has 20 stoppage wins from as many professional fights and acknowledges that explosive record prompts a certain element of bloodlust among his adoring public.
"I don't care if I spark him out, it goes 12 rounds or the ref ends it," he said. "It's always down to the people who are watching and their opinion.
"The pressure comes because people want to see the fighters I fight unconscious every time.
"But I was delivering - I put him down, I hurt him now and again, I slashed both his eyes.
"You should see my shorts and boots. They were pure white and now they're pink with all the blood.
"I do understand people want to see him unconscious. I was trying and the ref's job is to let the fighter live on and fight another day."
Takam will do so with a record of 35 wins, four defeats and a draw to his name and his pride intact having come in to face Joshua at 12 days' notice.
He replaced Kubrat Pulev when the rangy IBF mandatory challenger suffered a shoulder injury - a stylistic change in opponent that threatened difficulties even before Joshua's early injury.
"You don't see the headbutt coming and it's harder than a punch because it's bone on bone, that crunch" he explained.
"My corner did a great job and controlled the bleeding. You want 10 minutes to get yourself together and get yourself cleaned up.
"It's experience, it happens in a fight. It was just a matter of managing it through the rounds. You'll always find a way."
Joshua added: "Short fighters are always tougher. They've got no neck, they can tuck up and they've been dealing with guys my height all their life. Whereas I was preparing for someone like Pulev."