A fading Wilbeforce 'Black Mamba' Shihepo lost a majority decision to WBA Pan African cruiserweight Akani 'Prime' Phuzi in Johannesburg on Sunday.
The veteran Namibian lasted 12 punishing rounds but was ultimately outclassed by his younger rival who won the contest 115-113; 114-114; 116-112.
Shihepo, who dropped to 35-11, looked to score an early knock out and came out guns blazing in the opening round, throwing a barrage of punches to the head and body.
However, Phuzi, now 9-0, skilfully rode the storm before taking the initiative in the next four rounds during which time he had Shihepo hanging on.
The fight briefly deteriorated into a wrestling contest in the middle rounds with both fighters looking tired.
In the eighth round, Shihepo caught Phuzi with a left hook to the temple which staggered the South African but he failed to follow up, allowing the champion to see out the round.
Phuzi then kept Shihepo at arms length for the remainder of the fight to earn a second successive successful title defence.
"It was a tough fight but I came prepared. He's experienced and played mind games. I think I could have done better," Phuzi said.