Rob Brant probably isn’t really world level material in the truest sense, but he’s a solid competitor nonetheless. Brant started fast on Friday night, throwing the right hand repeatedly, even though opponent Khasan Baysangurov was not visibly panicking. Brant threw over 1200 punches in his WBA ‘World’ title-winning effort against Ryota Murata and dropped in a not-too-shabby 93 in the opening round of this latest ESPN featured slot. If he can’t out-skill his opponent, then he’ll do his best to outwork them. High octane Rob has been busy pumping out impressive levels of activity that he so badly lacked against Juergen Braehmer. Dropped by a right hand in the second round, taller Baysangurov looked at times like the young, unseasoned fighter that he is.
ESPN analyser Tim Bradley said at one point that Baysangurov was being outclassed. Outworked maybe, but not really outclassed. Even when his nose was busted up badly in the final rounds, he remained game for a fight. Down heavily in the 11th Baysangurov showed his inexperience by standing straight in front of the Texan title holder, inviting the stoppage from referee Mark Nelson. Not a smart move from Baysangurov. Perhaps he was just fatigued, and ‘cooked’ by that point – with Brant poised and ready to put a fork in his challenger.
It was great to see former light-heavyweight world champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad still on the boxing beat. Now 66 years of age, working Brant’s corner, the veteran coach is able to impart his wisdom on to the next generation.
Campaigning from 1972-1988 Eddie Gregory infamously lost to prison inmate James Scott in a 1978 final WBA eliminator. The pair boxed inside Rahway State Prison, live on HBO, much to the chagrin of the boxing establishment. Converting to Islam around the same time as Matthew Saad Muhammad and Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Eddie beat Marvin Johnson for the WBA crown in 1980 in what was the pinnacle of his career. His student Brant also holds a version of the WBA belts, but it has been watered down since the days of Mustafa Muhammad going hell for leather at world level.
Leo Santa Cruz bagged another $1million plus payday against less than stellar opposition. That’s no mock on late replacement Rafael Rivera who was determined to make the most of his Microsoft Theater headline shot. Even though Santa Cruz should be fighting better, Rivera wanted to win, and caused some problems for the champion, despite lopsided 119-109 cards across the board.
It is sometimes uttered that a replacement is more dangerous than the original fighter, and may arrive hungry to impress. Often that’s nonsense, but in this case, it appeared to be true. Rivera had taken unbeaten Joet Gonzalez to a split loss and gone the 12 rounds with JoJo Diaz, so he arrived with a reputation for resilience if nothing else. We will probably never know how original foe Miguel Flores would’ve fared. Although given Santa Cruz’s love of a soft touch perhaps we will see Flores parachuted in next time for a second chance.
When Howard Eastman received his big opportunity against middleweight ruler Bernard Hopkins back in the mid-2000s, the “Battersea Bomber” failed to turn up on his big night. Contrary to Eastman, like Richard Zamora last week, Rafael Rivera saw his name up in lights and went for it. He left nothing to chance (despite only pocketing a measly $20,000 for his efforts), and fans will no doubt respect that attitude. Rivera deserves another televised undercard slot for his toil.