Moscow Evander Holyfield's quest for a fifth heavyweight title ran into a roadblock Saturday: Sultan Ibragimov.
Ibragimov kept his WBO title with a unanimous decision over Holyfield, who will turn 45 next week and was trying to become the second-oldest heavyweight champion.
Fighting before a home crowd, Ibragimov improved his record to 22 wins and one draw with a slick, counter-punching display. Holyfield dropped to 42-9 with two draws.
The sparse crowd at Khodynka Arena chanted "Sultan! Sultan!" near the end of the bout, with the fighters embracing at the final bell. There were no knockdowns in the 12-round bout, which was scored 118-110, 117-111 and 117-111 by the judges.
"It was a great fight. He got the decision, and I have to go back to the drawing board," Holyfield said. "He's a left-handed fighter and moves a lot. I did the best that I could with the style that he had."
Ibragimov, a 32-year-old Russian, will now try to unify a fractured division. The other heavyweight titles are held by Wladimir Klitschko (IBF), Ruslan Chagaev (WBA) and recently declared champion Samuel Peter (WBC).
George Foreman became the oldest heavyweight champ at 45 and 300 days when he knocked out Michael Moorer to win the WBA and IBF titles in 1994.
This was Holyfield's 23rd title bout in a 20-year heavyweight career. In title fights, he beat James "Buster" Douglas (IBF, WBA and WBC) in 1990, Mike Tyson (WBA) in 1996, Michael Moorer (IBF) in 1997 and John Ruiz (WBA) in 2000.
Holyfield's license to fight in New York was suspended after he was outpointed by Larry Donald in 2004 for his third consecutive defeat. But he underwent surgery on both shoulders and won four straight fights in 2006-07 in Texas to receive another chance when Chagaev withdrew after contracting hepatitis.