Last year we saw Daniel Roman (24-2-1, 9) claim the WBA Super Bantamweight title with a stoppage win over the previously unbeaten Shun Kubo in Kyoto. Today he returned to Japan to defend his title against the touted Ryo Matsumoto (21-2, 19) [松本亮], who was stepping up for his first world title bout.
The fight started pretty competitively, with Roman bringing the pressure and Matsumoto needing to respond to it. The Japanese fighter landed some good body shots, but seemed to be out worked, out landed and in same ways out though by Roman, who used a good solid jab and clever footwork to cut the distance against the taller man. The success of Roman continued through the fight, with a lot of close rounds, but a lot of rounds where he simply did a bit more than Matsumoto, who looked to land single shots, namely the jab up top and the left hand to the body. Roman however had more variation to his work, the jab, the right hand over the top, and the body shots.
Although Roman seemed to be doing the better work, there was a lot of competitive action and Matsumoto did more than hold his own in a number of rounds, including round 3, which was one of his best rounds. The problem for him is that Roman really didn't seem to feel his power, and kept coming forward, even the big shots of Matsumoto seemed to be taken with ease from Roman.
In the middle rounds we saw some great trading sequences, as Matsumoto started to hold his ground more, and even when he was backed up he was letting his hands go a bit more often, as he did from the ropes in round 7. Though by being backed up so frequently he was making life a little bit too easy for the judges, who were always going to favour the aggression of the champion over the challenger's shots on the retreat.
In round 8 Matsumoto had another of his stronger rounds, landing some big body shots, though Roman continued to take them well. The champion did seem to feel them more than once, but only needed a second or two before returning fire and putting Matsumoto under pressure again, likely stealing the round with a late assault.
Matsumoto even tried to change his tactics late on, pressing Roman backwards, and whilst he had success at times he couldn't keep it up for long, with Roman turning the pressure around and forcing Matsumoto backwards. It was keeping the fight competitive on a round by round basis, but with Roman always just doing a touch more when he came forward, and seemingly always looking like the man who knew when, and how, to step up the pace. This certainly seemed to be the case in rounds 9, 10 and 11, with Matsumoto looking like he was having good rounds until Roman turned the pressure up and fought back.
The final round was one where Roman really stepped back on the gas from the off. It was as if he was thinking “if all the close rounds go to the challenger, I really might need to make a statement here”. He went out hunting a KO and forced a real fight, with both men taking some huge shots ina thrilling back and forth round, despite being back and forth it was clear that Roman was getting a lot more to land than Matsumoto, who had to reset more often, and backed off during key exchanges.
In there end there was no doubting the winner, and that was shown on the scores cards which read 119-109, twice and 118-108. The fight could have been scored closer, and Matsumoto certainly didn't disgrace himself, but he was the clear loser. Sadly though the score cards make the bout look like a near whitewash, which doesn't reflect the competitiveness of the bout, despite being pretty cards.
(Image courtesy of Daily.co.jp)
After a great start to 2017 for Japanese boxing it seems like the seams are slowly coming apart with a number of high profile losses all coming one after the other in recent weeks, with losses for Shinsuke Yamanaka, to Luis Nery, Yoshihiro Kamegai, to Miguel Cotto, and today we saw Shun Kubo (12-1, 9) [久保隼] suffer his own high profile loss, and lose the WBA Super Bantamweight title in his first defense.
The Shinsei Gym fighter won the title earlier this year, beating veteran Nehormar Cermeno, and immediately planned for today's defense against American Daniel Roman (23-2-1, 9). That planning didn't really seem to help today against a fighter who seemed so much more determined and hungry than Kubo, and looked like a fighter who was much more naturally composed and relaxed in the ring, even under fire.
The first round was a feeling out round, and it saw Kubo getting the upperhand as he used his reach and southpaw stance to control the distance and range behind his jab and stiff left hand. It was a round for the champion in terms of the scorecards, but gave the challenger a lot of details on how Kubo handled pressure, and what his power was like. In the second round Roman began to get more aggressive with his scouting, and apply more pressure. He was forced to eat some very solid left hands as a result, but never looked phased by them, as his engine moved up a gear.
Round 3 and 4 both saw Roman begin to take over the fight. He was a lot less passive with his pressure than he had been and really fired off up close. Kubo did respond at times, and landed some eye catching shots to head and body, but could never discourage Roman and instead it was Kubo who looked to be the one backing off from an exchange. Whilst it was clear Kubo wanted range he never managed to back off and establish it, instead he backed off, and was quickly walked down, again and again. It wasn't until round 5 that Roman showed any signs of slowing, but that was a round where chinks in Kubo became even more glaring, as even when he looked settled he couldn't ever gather his composure in the way Roman did.
The pressure seemed to wane in round 6 until towards the end of the round when Roman clearly hurt Kubo, rocking him hard before the bell seemed to save the now deflated champion. Kubo's body language at the end of the round seemed to be that of a beaten man. Despite looking mentally beaten he went out for round 7, and that was something special with Roman jumping on Kubo almost instantly and going to work on the champion, Kubo looked helpless before being dropped and in other countries that could have been the end. Roman then unloaded as Kubo tried to fire back, with the referee getting several chances to stop the contest. Amazingly after several waves of punishment from Roman Kubo looked alive, and started firing back, with bad intent, drawing loud applause from the crowd, who seemed to be won over by the local man's heart and desire.
Round 8 again saw the crowd getting behind their man, as they tried to re-energise him and help him build some momentum. He tried hard to get things going but in the end Roman's pressure told and just before the bell he was down again.
Now clearly ahead on the cards Roman could afford to take his foot off the gas, but chose not to, instead hunting the stoppage. That stoppage would come following a prolonged assault on Kubo who was out on his feet and unable to fire back, completely worn down and broken up by the pressure.
With the 9th round TKO win under his belt Roman stayed in the ring and gave an interview for the fans, who showed their respect to the new champion, who himself came across as a classy, smart and talented fighter, giving Kubo and the local fans credit. Given the performance he will almost certainly be invited back to Japan to face some of the other Japanese fighters at Super Bantamweight, potentially Tomoki Kameda, Hinata Maruta or Yusaku Kuga. If he wants to fight in the US and defend his title at home we hope fans tune in as he's a really exciting and personable fighter as he showed in this win today, his biggest win so far.
For Kubo it's back to the drawing board. At 27 he has time to bounce back, but needs to really work on his composure in the ring and keeping his confidence, which has been questioned in the past. He's a skilled fighter, but does seem to lack the mental belief and and doesn't have the defense or the power to reclaim a title unless he seriously tweaks his styles. Saying that his fight back in rounds 7 and 8 were great, and for that he deserves serious credit, there is a real gutsy fighter there, but one who perhaps needs more time to develop than he was given, as Shinsei seeked an immediate replacement at the top of their stable for Hozumi Hasegawa.
World Title Results
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