Hughie Fury missed the chance to secure a shot at Anthony Joshua's IBF world heavyweight title, losing to Kubrat Pulev in the final eliminator.
The cousin of Tyson was beaten on a unanimous decision in Sofia on Saturday night, an early cut causing him problems on his way to a brave but disappointing 117-111, 118-110, 115-113 defeat.
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Pulev took advantage in front of a sold-out Arena Armeec, to become the governing body's No 1 contender and 'AJ's next mandatory challenger.
Tyson Fury takes on WBC champion Deontay Wilder in December, with the winner likely to face Joshua at Wembley Stadium in April, and promoter Eddie Hearn is expecting the IBF mandatory to take place in the second half of 2019.
Pulev was in the same position a year ago, only for a late injury which forced him to withdraw from their showdown at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, with Carlos Takam replacing him.
It was Fury who made a bright start, his trademark right sending out an early warning, only for it all to go wrong in the second round.
The deep cut over his left eye, sustained in preparation, re-opened again and with blood streaming down, it was always going to have a huge influence.
Pulev clearly went to work on the injury in the third but sensing he needed something extra special on foreign soil, Fury remained on the offensive.
His right hand was his best weapon but as the rounds passed, Pulev's left was impressive and saw the home fighter take control of a scrappy contest.
A big left-hook from Pulev troubled the visitor as they went into the second half of the final eliminator, but Fury's overhand right returned the compliment in style.
But the Bulgarian, known as 'The Cobra', worked a way to close in with his left, and used his familiar in-your-face approach to smother a lot of Fury's work.
Joshua's IBF world title fights
|Sep 2018||Alexander Povetkin||TKO7|
|Mar 2018||Joseph Parker||UD12|
|Oct 2017||Carlos Takam||TKO10|
|Apr 2017||Wladimir Klitschko||TKO11|
|Dec 2016||Eric Molina||TKO3|
|Jun 2016||Dominic Breazeale||TKO7|
|Apr 2016||Charles Martin||KO2|
Pulev had him in trouble on the ropes in the 10th and Fury struggled to regain a grip in the 11th and despite a valiant effort in the final round, the unanimous verdict went against the Brit.
The Bulgarian should now finally get a second world-title attempt, having lost in five rounds to Wladimir Klitschko back in 2014, in an IBF world title fight.
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