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Ruslan Chagaev made a triumphant return to the ring after injury with a sixth-round technical decision over Costa Rican Carl Davis Drumond in Germany.
An accidental head-butt opened a cut above Chagaev's eye in the third round and all three judges scored it in his favour when the bout was stopped.
The judges scored the fight 60-54, 58-56, 58-56.
The 30-year-old Uzbek fighter has not fought since January 2008, when he beat Matt Skelton for the WBA title.
Chagaev must face Russian Nikolay Valuev before June for the heavyweight title.
He has twice pulled out of a rematch with Valuev because of injury and illness and in his absence the Russian beat John Ruiz to become interim champion in August, before defending it against Evander Holyfield in December.
Chagaev was the WBA champion when he bowed out of an initial rematch due to a viral infection before rupturing his Achilles tendon before the re-scheduled bout in June 2008.
It was Drumond's first defeat in 27 fights and Chagaev's 25th win to leave him unbeaten.
"I am sorry about the way I won, it was a sad end to the fight," said Chagaev. "That's boxing and these things happen." - BBC