Earlier this year we saw Chinese fighter Can Xu (17-2, 3) [徐灿] shock a large portion of the boxing world by defeating Jesus M Rojas in the US to claim the WBA "regular" Featherweight title. Today he made the first defense of that belt, taking on Japanese challenger Shun Kubo (13-2, 9) [久保隼].
On paper this didn't really promise a lot but actually delivered a really, really fan friendly battle, at a high tempo, fought at mid to close range and had some eye catching back and forths, before the champion broke down the challenger and forced the referee to stop the contest. It was not a fight of the year contender, but still a very, very enjoyable contest to watch.
The first round was a solid one for Kubo, who managed to use his southpaw jab and long arms to control the range pretty well, taking advantage of Xu being a relatively slow starter. Sadly for Kubo, who was picking some really classy shots, he was totally unable to get Xu's respect. That meant Xu could gradually pick up his pace, and like a steam trainer he build up some real momentum.
Round 2 and 3 were still somewhat competitive, with Kubo standing his ground and having some success, but it was coming at a cost with Xu landing more and more shots per round.
It was in round 4 that it was becoming clear Kubo was feeling the pace and being broken down. He was starting to break away from the action more often, trying to create space to catch his breath and not staying on the inside. He was also struggling to avoid the fire of Xu, who was increasing his output round by round, and landing more and more clean shots.
The problems Kubo was having with the volume of Xu got worse in round 5, and he was dropped towards the end of the round, after being badly hurt and eating some solid combinations. It was a testament to Kubo that he fought back as hard as he did, but it was clear he was being broken down, and as we heard the bell he was staggered again.
By now the referee and Kubo's corner were keeping an eye on the challenger and was he was rocked again in round 6 the referee, Gustavo Padilla, stepped in and halted the bout.
Interestingly this was Xu's third stoppage in 5 bouts, and whilst no one would call him a puncher he is certainly hitting hard than his record would suggest. Sadly for Kubo this is his second stoppage loss, and it's really hard to see where he goes from this. Domestically and regionally the Featherweight division is a mine field and it's really, really hard to imagine him making a mark on the sport at 126lbs given how he was broken down here.
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.
Every fighter who goes on to major success has their coming of age bout, and today we saw Shun Kubo (12-0, 9) [久保隼] come of age as he claimed the WBA Super Bantamweight "regular" title and forced the retirement of Veneuelan veteran Nehomar Cermeno (26-6-1-1, 15), in what was a brilliant tactical bout between two highly skilled fighters at different stages of their careers.
In their ring walks Kubo looked like a nervous child, a man taking a massive step into the unknown and moving into world class for the first time. Cermeno on the other hand looked calm, calculated and relaxed. Like a man who had been here and done this before. Despite their ring walks it was Kubo who got off to a good start, boxing at his tempo and cautiously picking Cermeno apart with accurate left hands to the head and body of the defending champion. Cermeno looked old and slow during the round, but refused to just hand over his title, and in round 2 the visitor had some genuine moments.
The challenger reasserted himself with a very good round 3, as he out sped, out boxed and out landed the champion, who took some meaty body shots from the patient and cautious challenger. It was the perfect round from Kubo but one that may have left him with a false sense of security with Cermeno upping his pressure in round 4 and giving Kubo a scare or two, despite the fact that Cermeno suffered a notable cut on his right cheek, a result of the straight left hands Kubo was landing. The round was a close one,and one that showed Cermeno was dangerous, despite being behind on the cards.
Kubo took back total control in round 5, as he used his speed and size to land at range on Cermeno, who looked like an old man in there. Although Kubo was the boss Cermeno landed a right hand late in the round to remind Kubo that he was still there. Kubo'sclean accurate punching was again on show in round 6, as he landed some devastating body shots, seemingly hurting Cermeno at one point. Although Kubo landed the better shots through the round Cermeno managed to end the round with some success as he began to force a brawl on Kubo.
Although well behind on the cards there was a sense that Cermeno was a dangerous fighter. That proved to be the case in round 7 when he gave everyone a serious scare. Part way through the round he seriously shook up Kubo with a right hand. The challenger tried to hold and spoil but was eventually dropped as Cermeno went for the challenger. Kubo got to his feet but was hurt again in the final seconds of the round and it suddenly seemed like Kubo's great work was going to come un-done.
Thankfully for the challenger he managed to hear the bell to end the round, though he did come out for round 8 looking unsure of himself and it took much of the round before he managed to reassert himself on the fight. When he did finally refind his feet however Kubo looked just as confident as he had earlier in the fight,and was bouyed further by a loud "Kubo" chant. The chant helped Kubo re-energise but Cermeno still seemed to feel he had a chance and had s respectable round 9.
Cermeno, surely aware that he was behind on the cards, came out for round 10 in an aggressive fashion and seemed to be sent out with a mission. It was a good round for the veteran, and one where he again seemed to hurt the challenger, but Kubo showed his mettle and came through the slight scare to have some success late in the round, possibly stealing the round.
Going into the championship rounds it seemed like we still had a finely balanced fight. Kubo was surely well up on the score cards, but Cermeno had hurt him more than once and looked to be a veteran with the ability to turn it on late. Surprisingly however Cermeno stayed in his corner after the bell to start round 11, technically retiring 5 seconds into the round to hand Kubo the title!
For Cermeno the retirement likely spells the end of his long career. For Kubo it puts him in the mix for major bouts down the line as the champion, and also sees him adding his name to the top Japanese fighters in a division packed with fighters from the Land of the Rising sun. A match up against IBF champion Yukinori Oguni may well be considered, but bouts against the likes of Ryosuke Iwasa, Tomoki Kameda, Shingo Wake and Yusaku Kuga will all be plausible all-Japanese bouts. Likewise a show down with the winner of the upcoming Guillermo Rigondeaux vs Moises Flores bout could also be an interesting assignment for Kubo. The win also sees Kubo moving one step further to becoming he Shinsei gym replacement for Hozumi Hasegawa, who retired late last year.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.