In one corner was Australian Jack Brubaker (11-1-1, 5), the “real” champion and in the other was “interim” champion Suyon Takayama (24-2, 8) [高山 樹延], a popular fighter in Tokyo where he has fought every one of his bouts. Between them there was only going to be one man finishing with a title.
The fight started fast for Brubaker who seemed to clearly take the first round by starting off in second gear whilst Takayam had to warm up through the round. By the end of the opener however both men had found their groove, both were letting their shots go and both seemed to enjoy the competition of the other man, with their styles gelling almost immediately. Takayama was a straight ahead come forward fighter whilst Brubaker moved around him and used his faster hands, with the two regularly engaging in small skirmishes.
Through the first 4 rounds there was very little to separate the two, men overall. It seemed that round 1 was clearly Brubaker's and round 2 was razor thin either way. A case could be made however for Takayama to have swept rounds 3 and 4 as he unleashed a body based assault that was likely aimed at taking away the Australian's legs in the later rounds. The body really did seem to be the key target for Takayama who knew that Brubaker's speed was going to be an issue.
After 4 rounds the judges were split with scores of 39-37, 38-38 and 37-39.
In round 5 Brubaker seemed to regain some control of the proceedings with a fast start and some solid right hands in the later part of the round. Takayama continued his assault on the body during the round but it was certainly a better one for the Australian who looked to slow in the later part of the round. Following a a competitive, but clear, round for Brubaker we expected to see Takayama start round 6 hot but it was a really competitive round and one that could have gone either way, with Takayama continuing his body attack whilst Brubaker tagged the head of the local favourite. Takyama did have have some genuine success in round 7, as he seemed to stiffen Brubaker's legs for a moment, and the body assault continued to come from the Japanese fighter.
Sadly for Takayama he struggled to build on his success and although he put up a great effort in round 8 Brubaker landed some eye catching, albeit slappy, right hands that left a memorable impression in the later stages of a round that he quite possibly stole. We thought it was a Takayama round but certainly have no arguments about it going the way of the Aussie who finished the stronger.
After 8 rounds the judges cards put Brubaker in the lead with scores of 78-74 and 77-75 whilst the dissenting judge had been impressed by Takayama's body attack and had him up 78-75.
The open scoring should have driven on Takayama, with the Japanese fighter at least aware he was behind going into the final 4 rounds. Instead however it seemed to dishearten him and spur on Brubaker who fought round 9 full of confidence and had one of his best rounds, leaving Takayama with a near his right eye. Had round 9 been one of Brubaker's best his very best was to following as he had a dominant round 10, with Takyama returning fire just enough to make the referee hold back on stopping the contest.
Going into the final 2 rounds it looked like Takayama was going to fail to hear the final bell. However the moment shifted in his favour in round 11, his best round, as he upped the tempo and went for broke, dropping Brubaker in the final part of the round after previously having staggered him. It was a round that summed up the Japanese warrior spirit. Despite the knockdown Brubaker did quickly recover to his feet and looked fine as he saw out the remaining seconds of the round.
With the knockdown giving Takayama some hope we'd expected him to come out firing in the final round. Instead however it was Brubaker who started as the livelier man and he had Takayama cornered at one point. It was then that Takayama tried to turn things around, and he turned Brubaker before unloading, the Brubaker returned the favour unloading on Takayama as the tempo increased through the final minute. Sadly though Takayama could never do enough to drop Brubaker again.
At the final bell it seemed the fighters had done their maths and Brubaker celebrated whilst Takayama looked disconsolate. It was as if they both knew the result, and both knew the same thing. Takayama hadn't quite done enough. The judges agreed with Brubaker edging out a split decision.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)