BOXING FEATURED

Andrade and Brant Win, Enter Middleweight Sweepstakes

Demetrius Andrade Cruises Against Late Replacement, Wins Vacant Title

This was supposed to be a big night for Demetrius Andrade. It still turned out to be a good night for him — he won easily and picked up a world title in the process — but it still wasn’t what it could’ve been.

That wasn’t Andrade’s fault.

The former 154-pound titleholder was supposed to be fighting Billy Joe Saunders for a middleweight title. But then Saunders tested positive for a banned substance that his team says came from nasal spray. The Massachusetts Athletic Commission refused to license Saunders for the bout. Saunders dropped his title, and Andrade ended up facing a late replacement opponent instead for the vacant belt.

That opponent, Walter Kautondokwa, was an undefeated prospect from Namibia who’d only fought outside of his home country once (a bout in Ghana) and was making his United States debut, taking a very long flight on very late notice in order to do so. He had never fought anyone near Andrade’s level before, but at least he appeared to be in good shape, and taller and larger than Andrade.

Andrade was still much better.

The official record will show that Andrade knocked Kautondokwa down four times en route to a wide unanimous decision. Almost all of that is true. The first knockdown shouldn’t have been ruled as such.
That’s because of a sequence in the first round, when Kautondokwa, a right-hander, had his feet tangle up with those of the southpaw Andrade. He tripped and went to the canvas, and while down on a knee, took a big left hand from Andrade. Referee Steve Willis, who’s earned a reputation as a solid official, erred in calling it a knockdown. He gave Kautondokwa a count and then appeared to give Andrade a warning, two contradictory measures.

Andrade scored a legit knockdown in the third round, slipping a right hand from Kautondokwa, ducking down to his left and emerging at an angle on Kautondokwa’s right side. That gave Andrade a clear path for a hard left hand that Kautondokwa never saw. It dropped him hard. Kautondokwa rose with his legs unsteady but was able to survive the round.

Kautondokwa was down again in the fourth, the result of a counter left hand. That sequence actually should’ve been ruled a double knockdown. Andrade had been grazed by a left hand while off balance. He stumbled and kept himself upright with a glove on the canvas. It was another call that Willis missed, not that it would’ve made any difference on the eventual result. Soon Kautondokwa was down again.

“Not much more,” Willis told Kautondokwa.

But Andrade seemed to take his foot off the gas, confident that he had the fight won, willing to take the victory on points, controlling the action for the remaining eight rounds rather than end it early with an exclamation point.

The final scores had two judges seeing it a shutout, 120-104, 12 rounds to none with four additional points deducted for each knockdown. The third judge found a round to give to Kautondokwa, seeing it 119-105.

Andrade improved to 26-0 with 16 knockouts and is now a two-division titleholder.

A win over Saunders would’ve given Andrade the jetpack toward prominence that he’s long wanted. He’s blamed others for avoiding him, which makes sense given his skillset. But in other ways he’s sabotaged himself, pulling out of a fight with Jermell Charlo back in 2014, sitting on the shelf during a disagreement with his promoters, and putting on performances that didn’t exactly make him more marketable.

The good news is that he’s now being featured on the DAZN streaming service, which recently signed a big deal with middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez. DAZN’s promotional partner, Matchroom Boxing, has Daniel Jacobs in its stable — Jacobs will face the very dangerous Sergiy Derevyanchenko this coming weekend. And there are other fights that could be available for him now that he has a title and a platform.

Kautondokwa is now 17-1 with 16 KOs.

Rob Brant Outworks Ryota Murata, Scores Upset Victory

There had been plenty of talk about middleweight contender Ryota Murata headlining early next year against Gennady Golovkin in Japan. Anyone talking about that apparently spoke too soon.

Murata first had to get past Rob Brant on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Instead, Brant came out with the perfect strategy and the skills and stamina to make it work. Murata tends not to throw too much per round. Brant outworked him, averaging more than 100 punches per round and propelling himself to an upset victory.

Brant used his superior foot speed to punch and move, letting loose with combinations while Murata preferred to get set before sending out single shots. Murata picked off much of what Brant was throwing early on, but not all of it. In the opening round, Brant landed 38 of an astounding 136 shots, while Murata was just 10 of 42. Brant kept up the pace in Round 2, going 27 of 124 while Murata was 13 of 52.

In the third, Murata wisely began to target the body, trying to slow Brant down. He landed more often in rounds four and five, as Brant stayed in range more, even if his volume hadn’t lessened much. Murata’s right hands, in particular, landed cleanly in the fifth.

But as the fight hit the backstretch, beginning around Round 8, Brant was back in his rhythm, taking less, showing increasing confidence.

Murata’s confidence, meanwhile, seemed to be diminishing. He either didn’t have a Plan B, or he just didn’t have the ability to put it into action.

“How’s your stamina?” his corner asked him after the eighth, icing the swelling on his face in multiple areas.

“Not good,” Murata seemed to respond, according to an ESPN translator working the broadcast.

That was clear — there was less steam on Murata’s punches. Brant didn’t need to move as much anymore. He was instead picking off the shots and responding in kind, winning exchanges. Murata’s frustration showed in Round 11, when he hit Brant behind the head a couple of times.

Murata knew he needed to let his hands go in the last round. Brant chose to respond in kind rather than coasting and surviving. That wasn’t necessarily the right decision. Murata landed some heavy blows. Brant was able to weather them, and when the bell rang, he knew he’d pulled out the victory.

He just needed confirmation. The judges gave it to him, seeing it even wider than it may have actually been. Two judges had it 119-109, giving Brant 11 rounds and Murata just one. The other judge had it 118-110, or 10 rounds to two.

Murata is now 14-2 with 11 KOs. His other loss came in May 2017 against Hassan N’Dam in what many saw as an absolute robbery. Murata took matters into his own hands in their rematch, stopping N’Dam.

Brant, who moved to 24-1 with 16 KOs, had recently suffered his first loss as well, dropping a decision to Juergen Braehmer about a year ago in the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight tournament. Brant dropped back down to 160 afterward, which is where he’s been pretty much his whole pro career.

The win earned him the “regular” World Boxing Association title — a secondary belt when the WBA also has a “super” titleholder, which Canelo Alvarez is. But don’t tell Brant that he hasn’t just accomplished something.

The other thing Brant’s done with this win is put himself in line for another big fight and another good payday.

Good for him. He doesn’t have standout power, speed or skills. But he deserves everything his hard work — and this performance — will bring him.

Katie Taylor Shuts Out Cindy Serrano; Is Braekhus Mega-Fight Next?

Though the fight went the distance, Katie Taylor had a relatively easy night against Cindy Serrano, dominating the action and winning a wide decision in defense of her two lightweight world titles.

Serrano is a capable boxer, highly experienced and comfortable in the ring. She’s also a former 130-pound titleholder. But she seemed more intent on moving her feet than her fists against Taylor on Saturday night. It’s not that she was running — she wasn’t — but she was more focused on defense than offense, rarely letting her hands go.

Taylor capably pressured Serrano around the ring, scoring with single shots at first and then turning them into combinations. With so little coming back her way, Taylor was able to pick her spots, land and then get out. She had both activity and accuracy, going 164 of 332 with power shots on the night — about 16 per round, which is impressive when you remember that women’s boxing has two-minute rounds, rather than three minutes.

Serrano never went down and never seemed badly hurt. She made it to the final bell, and that’s something, I guess. There was no desperation, no action out of the recognition that she was losing. She was seemingly resigned to the result, going just 20 of 86 with power punches on the night, meaning she threw less than nine per round, and landed just two per round, or one per minute.

The scores were a shutout across the board, 100-90 from all three judges, 10 rounds to none.

Taylor, who won gold while representing Ireland in the 2012 Olympics and then turned pro after losing early in the 2016 Games, is now 11-0 with 5 KOs. This was her third fight in the United States, and her first in Boston, which has a historically large population of people of Irish ancestry.

Taylor won a world title at 135 a year ago and has stayed busy since, making four defenses and adding a second belt to her collection along the way. While one possible fight for her is against Cindy Serrano’s younger sister — six-division titleholder Amanda Serrano — there’s also been talk in recent months of a mega-fight with Cecilia Braekhus.

Braekhus is widely regarded as the best fighter in the world in women’s boxing. She holds all four world titles at welterweight, which is the 147-pound division, and has said she is open to dropping in weight in order to make a fight with Taylor happen.

Cindy Serrano is now 27-6-3 with 10 KOs. This was her first loss since 2012.

David Greisman
About the Author:

David Greisman. David Greisman is an award-winning boxing writer based out of Washington, D.C., who has covered the sport since 2004. He is the senior staff writer and "Fighting Words" columnist for BoxingScene.com and a reporter for The Ring magazine. Greisman is the author of the book "Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing." Follow on Twitter @fightingwords2

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