A boxing referee has come under attack for allowing a struggling boxer to continue fighting after being knocked down — only to be viciously knocked out in the very next exchange.

There was no Andy Ruiz Jr moment for junior middleweight Jorge Cota, who stepped in at late notice to fight against Jermell Charlo.

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Charlo (32-1, 16 KOs) had been due to fight Harrison for the WBC super middleweight belt, in a rematch of a controversial decision victory for Harrison in December.

An ankle injury delayed that bout, and Charlo looked to make a statement with his rival sitting ringside for the Las Vegas clash.

Cota (28-4) was given little chance of beating the former champion, but his awkward style frustrated Charlo for two tentative opening rounds.

But Charlo took charge in the third, sending Cota sprawling on the canvas with a short right hook that had the fighter visibly groggy and staggering onto the ropes for support.

The fight should have been over then, but referee Jay Nady controversially lifted Cota’s hands off the ropes and waved the fight back on.

Then Charlo landed another staggering shot flush on Cota’s face, the referee not even bothering to start the count with the beaten boxer left in a bad way.

The finish was instantly declared a contender for KO of the year, but the referee’s decision to continue the fight after the first knock down was lambasted on social media.