A Tale Of Two Middleweight Title Fights
By Jake Donovan
Demetrius Andrade managed to win all 12 rounds of his vacant title fight yet somehow still found himself outclassed by another middleweight in the ring on Saturday night.
Luckily for Andrade, the far more memorable performance delivered by Robert Brant took place in a boxing ring in Las Vegas, more than 2,700 miles away from his main event in Boston, Mass.
The pair of middleweight title fights were the biggest events of a busy boxing weekend, but couldn’t have been more drastic in action despite both delivering the same exact results: landslide victories for the newly crowned titlists.
Photo Credit: Demetrius Andrade Twitter Account
Andrade scored a 12-round shutout of late replacement Walter Kautondokwa in their main event at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The makeshift headliner came about after Billy Joe Saunders was pulled from the bill and stripped of his title after a failed drug test in late August resulted in his being denied a boxing license by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission.
Kautondokwa (17-1, 16KOs) attempted to put his best foot forward, but the 33-year old contender from Namibia—who took the fight on less than two weeks official notice—was hopelessly outclassed from the opening bell. Andrade (26-0, 16KOs) had a chance to make a major statement, appearing well on his away after scoring four knockdowns through the first four rounds while making his debut under promoter Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA outfit.
Rather than proceeding in a manner that would keep fans in attendance and DAZN home viewers engaged, the contest somehow devolved into a garden variety Andrade fight. The fighting pride of Providence, Rhode Island—roughly an hour from Boston—had a hopelessly overmatched opponent in front of him, yet decided to box his way through the rest of the night.
It was the safest route he could’ve possibly chosen, but one that he and his supporters will quickly note that resulted in winning his third title in two weight divisions. Those who didn’t care for his opting to put it in cruise control will quickly point out that on the very same streaming service that carried his bout—and going head-to-head with his show—came a fiercely-contested World Boxing Super Series doubleheader from Orlando, Florida which generated far more engaging social media chatter.
Playing to far less pre-fight fanfare, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Yunier Dorticos both survived firefights to advance to the semifinal round of their respective WBSS tournaments. Rodriguez barely escaped with his bantamweight title and unbeaten record still intact following a hard-fought split decision win over Jason Moloney in a legitimate Fight of the Year contender.
It had to be that good after the brave showing put forth in the co-feature, where Dorticos fended off a late rally from Poland’s Mateusz Masternak to earn a close unanimous decision. The win put him in the semifinals of the WBSS cruiserweight bracket, the same position he found himself in earlier this year during Season One of the WBSS cruiserweight tournament.
As heartwarming as were both legs of the DAZN-aired WBSS tourney from Orlando, both DAZN offerings were extraordinarily outdone by what took place on EPSN+ live from Las Vegas.
For Ryota Murata (14-1, 12KOs), the game plan was simple; turn back the challenge of Brant and then proceed to a mouthwatering showdown with recently dethroned unified titlist Gennady Golovkin at some point in 2019. Murata was attempting the second defense of his secondary middleweight title, but the belt and his drawing power back home in Japan was enough to drum up the idea of a showdown with Golovkin at the famed Tokyo Dome.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter Account
The concept was enough to prompt Golovkin’s longtime promoter, Tom Loeffler ringside at MGM Grand’s Park Theatre in Las Vegas to keep an eye on his client’s potential future investment.
What he witnessed what was not only that very opportunity drying up and blowing away, but also quite possibly the biggest upset of the 2018 boxing season.
Brant (24-1, 16KOs) told anyone who’d listen that his loss to Jurgen Braehmer in last year’s WBSS super middleweight quarterfinals round made him a better fighter in the long run. It’s something that a lot of boxers say after a defeat, but claiming such an occurrence to be a learning lesson and actually learning from the experience are not always one and the same.
The performance delivered by Brant in his first career title fight certainly put something behind his words. The engaging middleweight from Minnesota—who moved up to 168 last year solely for the sake of entering the tournament but has since dropped back down to his natural fighting weight—had fought just once since his lone defeat and was a massive underdog heading into Saturday’s showdown with Murata.
Someone forgot to tell him that he was just an opponent who wasn’t supposed to get in the way of bigger plans in store for the defending titlist. Brant jumped out to an early lead, finding Murata’s leaky defense all too inviting, Murata was not only forced to deal with his opponent’s offensive attack, but also bruising and swelling around both eyes and a growing deficit on the official scorecards.
Try as he might, the 32-year old from Tokyo—who captured a Gold medal for Japan during the 2012 London Olympics—just couldn’t mount a sustained attack to help turn the tide. Meanwhile, Brant never stopped throwing punches, in fact launching more than 1,260—averaging more than 100 punches per round, an unheard of workrate for a middleweight fight.
It was more than enough to secure the biggest win of his career. Brant claimed a surprisingly wide decision to become a secondary titlist in a lucrative middleweight division, and—perhaps even more important—fighting well beyond expectations, even taking into consideration the hype surrounding his career not too long ago as a rising middleweight prospect.
When all was said and done, Brant delivered a performance indicative of a boxer who never took a win for granted at any point in the fight and who had no clue heading into the night—or even afterward—of his next move.
Andrade’s makeshift title fight came with considerable fanfare. Part of it had to do with the aggressive promotional effort put forth by Hearn, but with the DAZN event picking up major profile following the mid-week announcement of World middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez signing a record-breaking 11-fight, $365 million deal with the streaming platform.
The move meant a clearer path to a future career-altering payday for Andrade, not to mention the possibility of a 2019 showdown with the winner of next Saturday’s bout between Daniel Jacobs (also promoted by Hearn) and Sergey Derevyachenko.
With so much movement in the middleweight division just in this last part of October alone, any boxer at the weight would be best served to stand out from the pack if he wants to dominate the headlines rather than just be another part of the story.
Andrade had that golden opportunity the moment he realized his late replacement opponent was in well over his head. Yet in a fight where he scored a shutout and won a title, he still couldn’t even win the story of the best middleweight performance of the night.