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.