Anthony Yarde had Sergey Kovalev staggering for a short time in Chelyabinsk but could not topple the WBO champion.
Sergey Kovalev came through a difficult eighth round to stop Anthony Yarde and retain his WBO light-heavyweight belt in Chelyabinsk.
Kovalev reclaimed his title from Eleider Alvarez in January, having been knocked out by the same man in an initial meeting last year, to set up a return to Russia for the first time since 2016.
For a short time on Saturday, though, the home favourite staggered towards the brink of losing his belt again, despite dominating Yarde for much of the contest.
Kovalev found his rhythm after a cagey start and repeatedly tested Yarde’s chin with his left, seeing little come back his way from the Briton.
But after showing signs of a response in both the fifth and seventh, Yarde traded punches in the eighth before suddenly having Kovalev in clear trouble.
By the bell, the 36-year-old champion looked spent. He had done well to come through the onslaught but was warned by trainer Buddy McGirt to improve in a hurry or else he would be pulled out by his corner.
Kovalev responded to the ultimatum by going on the attack. A tiring Yarde did well to get through the 10th under heavy punishment but was knocked down in the next by a stiff jab, leading to the bout being stopped.
It is the first defeat of his 19-fight career, while Kovalev moves to 34-3-1.
“[Yarde] was seconds away from winning it with those body shots in the eighth,” promoter Frank Warren told BT Sport. “Every time, he was hurting [Kovalev] and he was all over the place at one stage.”
Earlier, Ilunga Makabu pipped Aleksei Papin in an entertaining bout that went the distance.