Ricky Burns was floored seconds into his comeback fight as his hopes of quickly returning to world title level were shattered by defeat by Dejan Zlaticanin.
Promoter Eddie Hearn had challenged Burns to send out a statement against the unbeaten Montenegrin but it was a far from positive signal as Zlaticanin secured a split-decision points win, although he appeared a clear winner.
Hearn had secured a WBC eliminator in the Scot's first fight since losing his WBO belt to Terence Crawford but it was the visitor who moved closer to fighting champion Omar Figueroa and left Burns facing an uncertain future.
Burns was on the floor within 30 seconds when southpaw Zlaticanin, who had knocked out 13 of his previous 18 opponents, caught him with a counter left hook.
The two-weight world champion looked shaken as he got up after the eight count and his diminutive opponent kept raining shots in.
Burns looked in danger of being stuck on the ropes a couple of times in the early rounds and Zlaticanin's left hook caused the Scot problems throughout the fight, for the vacant WBC International title.
The Coatbridge fighter managed to put together some combinations but none troubled the visitor, who generally responded with an intense flurry of punches.
Another left hook had Burns in trouble in the fifth and, just when the 31-year-old excited the Braehead Arena crowd with a decent right hook in the next round, Zlaticanin soon forced him back again.
The Montenegrin, fighting outside of the Balkans for the first time, continued to brush off Burns' replies and throw the more dangerous punches despite the Scot looking more steady as the fight progressed and winning several of the later rounds.
Zlaticanin was awarded the win by 115-113 on two scorecards with one judge, John King, giving Burns the victory by the same score, but there was no sense of injustice among the home crowd.
Hearn admitted Burns' world title hopes were over after the defeat but the boxer vowed to fight on.
He said: "He is absolutely devastated because he should be beating people like that. He is in tears.
"I said before the fight that if he was to lose it's the end of his world title ambitions. I 100 per cent stand by that.
"So I think we have to look domestically for a fight that gets him back in the mix. He has just said there that he wants to get back in the gym, it's all he ever thinks about."Reuse content