By Jake Donovan
Rob Brant registered his first title defense the same way he won the strap—throwing an overwhelming amount of punches and never allowing his opponent to establish a rhythm.
This time, he managed to close the show.
Four months after dethroning Ryota Murata in dominant fashion, Brant turned away the challenge of unbeaten Khasan Baysangurov. The defending titlist scored two knockdowns in forcing an 11th round stoppage in Friday’s ESPN-televised headliner Friday evening in front of a sold out crowd of 2,225 in attendance at Grand Casino in Hinckley, Minnesota.
“I always feel like you’re not a true champion until you defend your title,” said Brant, who flourished in returning to his home state for the first time with a title at stake. “Today I felt like a new champion.”
The St. Paul, Minn. native forced a furious pace from the outset, similar to the 1,262-punch performance he delivered in overwhelming Murata last October in Las Vegas. Brant picked up right where he left off, throwing 93 punches in the opening round while Baysangurov found himself unable to set his feet and get off his own shots.
The unbeaten contender from Russia found himself in a deeper hole in round two, when Brant scored the lone knockdown of the bout. A right hand shot upstairs seemed to catch Baysangurov off guard more so than actually hurt him, but was enough to briefly force him to the canvas and produce a 10-8 round.
Brant didn’t have any intention of resting on his laurels, launching 100 punches in a round three and outpacing Baysangurov by a rate of more 2½:1. Despite having to fight his way through a buzzsay, Baysangurov enjoyed mid-rounds success, timing Brant’s frenetic attack to get off right hands upstairs and left hook touches to the body.
No matter the adjustments made, however, Baysangurov was unable to slow down Brant. He also had to contend with a bloody nose that leaked throughout the second half of the fight, although Brant found himself fighting through a shiner around his right eye.
The fight reached a point where Brant seemed content with his sizeable lead. He heeded the advice of his trainer and former light heavyweight king Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, who told him to keep working the jab and keeping his opponent outside of punching range.
It wasn’t enough for Brant, who was fighting at this very venue for the 12th time, but his first with such high stakes. As such, he closed the show like the champion that he is.
Baysangurov (17-1, 7KOs) found himself in deep trouble early in round 11, immediately detected by Brant who sent the visiting challenger to the canvas for the second time on the night. An ensuing flurry left Baysangurov unable to any longer defend himself, forcing referee Mark Nelson to intervene.
The official time was 1:42 of round eleven.
Brant improves to 25-1 (16KOs) with the win, his third straight. The belt he owns is a secondary title, which makes him the mandatory challenger to the winner of the May 4 showdown between World champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and fellow titlist Daniel Jacobs.
“I’ve always felt, the true champion will be the winner of Alvarez-Jacobs,” Brant admitted to ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna after his latest win. “I would very much love to go after the winner. If not, maybe even go after another titlist like (Demtrius) Andrade.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox