Last year we saw a Chinese fighter really announce himself on the world stage with two big wins in the US. Between those two bouts he fought one at home, in what is actually a bit of a forgotten treasure from the year. It's a bout that we don't think many Western fans watched, but it was entertaining, action packed and a fun little battle in Fuzhou. Albeit a rather one sided little battle, with the Chinese star battering a former world champion in impressive fashion.
Can Xu (16-2, 2) v Shun Kubo (13-1, 9)
The Chinese fighter in question is Can Xu, who announced himself in a big way in January, when he upset Jesus M Rojas to claim the WBA "regular" Featherweight title. The win was a massive shock, and saw Xu become the first Chinese fighter to win a world title above Flyweight. It wasn't just a big win but was an exciting win, with Xu throwing an incredible amount of leather in that fight and instantly endearing himself to US fans with his style, toughness, and personality.
After winning his title his next saw him go home and fight in front of Chinese fans, who wanted to see their new star in action. That lead to him taking on former WBA "regular" Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo, a talented and gutsy Japanese fighter.
Although Kubo isn't a big name he managed to make something of a buzz in 2017, when he stopped veteran Nehomar Cermeno, who retired between rounds 10 and 11, for the WBA "regular" title. His reign was a short one, as he was beaten up by Daniel Roman in his first defense. He bounced back from that loss by defeating Hiroshige Osawa and appeared to be fighting at a better weight for his gangly and rangy frame. It was assumed the extra few pounds would actually help him take a punch and allow him to fight at a weight more suited to his body.
In the opening moments we saw Kubo looking to create distance, use his jab and keep Xu at range. It was the type of gameplan the challenger was going to need to use to have any chance. Not only did he need did he need to keep it at range, but he also needed to get Xu's respect, some how. Sadly for Kubo that was always going to be the toughest part, given Xu has a brilliant chin, to go alongside his incredibly engine.
Kubo's tactics had success in the opening round, but by the end of it Xu was starting to cut the distance, get inside and get some of his shots off. The second round saw Xu build on a good finish to the opening round, and Kubo realised he had to respond, giving us some fun back and forth as both men let shots go up close. Kubo's gameplan had began to fall apart, and he had began to fight Xu's fight. This was where the excitement level began to increase, and where the bout began to get one sided.
From round 3 on wards Xu began to fully fight his fight, setting the pace, coming forward and letting his hands go, throwing punches in bunches. Kubo fought back, bravely, trying to do what he could to fight off Xu, standing his ground when he needed to, boxing when he could, and fight with heart and desire of someone desperate to win. That desire shone, but the gulf in ability wasn't something that be over-come by desire alone.
In the end Kubo got ground down, but not without playing his part in a short, exciting, little battle that was overshadowed by Xu's two other fights from the year. Of course those other two bouts were much memorable 12 round battles, and exhibitions in volume punching at a higher level.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.