It was a joyous homecoming for Rob Brant, who defended his WBA regular middleweight title by scoring an 11th-round stoppage of Khasan Baysangurov on Friday night at the Grand Casino in Hinckley, Minnesota.
The fight was the main event of a card that was broadcast live on ESPN.
Not content to just coast to a wide decision victory, Brant (25-1, 17 KOs), a native of nearby St. Paul, floored Baysangurov in the 11th round and then went in for the finish, rocking the challenger with a hard right hook before referee Mark Nelson stepped in to wave off the fight at the 1-minute, 42-second mark.
"Today, I feel like a true champion," Brant said. "I was happy with my performance. I had some cramps later in the fight, but this shows I can carry my power later in fights."
Just as he did four months ago, when he defeated Ryota Murata to win the title, Brant started off quickly and overwhelmed Baysangurov with a multitude of punches that put him on his heels. Brant scored a knockdown in the second round with an overhand right to quickly take control of the bout.
While Baysangurov (17-1, 7 KOs), of Russia, landed the occasional punch, he was simply overwhelmed by Brant's volume of punches.
In the 11th round, Brant sent Baysangurov to the canvas a second time with a barrage of well-placed punches. The clincher was a right hook that snapped Baysangurov's head back, which forced Nelson to jump in and stop the fight.
Brant, who wanted to state his case as an elite middleweight, said he now wants to be involved in the biggest fights in his weight class.
"Middleweight is one of the deepest divisions in boxing," said Brant, who defended his title for the first time. "There are fights to be made. We just have to keep pushing forward. Canelo Alvarez is recognized by many as the champion at middleweight, and I'd love a fight with him down the road."
Mayer dominates Larios in unanimous decision
On the undercard, undefeated junior lightweight Mikaela Mayer weathered a tough first round and went on to dominate Yareli Larios in an eight-round unanimous decision.
Early on, Mayer (10-0, 4 KOs), who is 5-foot-9, had trouble establishing her jab and using her height advantage over the significantly shorter Larios (13-2-1, 3 KOs).
But Mayer made the necessary tactical adjustments. Once she began to work behind her jab from the outside and control the action, Mayer then moved inside and hurt Larios several times by attacking the body.
Larios, to her credit, managed to take the fight to the final bell. All three judges scored the bout for Mayer: 79-73, 78-74 and 80-72.
"It's more about strategy in the pros," Mayer said. "I was relaxed and took my time in there. We knew she was going to be tough.
"It's been a great year and a half as a pro. I've fought 10 times and want to continue staying active and improving."
Greer rallies to stop Escaner in Round 8
In the opening bout of the ESPN broadcast, Joshua Greer (20-1-1, 12 KOs) survived an early knockdown and went on to stop the hard-nosed Giovanni Escaner in the eighth round with a perfectly placed right uppercut to the body.
Greer was pushed by the diligent Escaner, who showed a stout chin and landed several solid right hands, including one that floored Greer toward the end of the third.
But Greer steadied himself and began to sit inside the pocket and work the body in the sixth round. And after chipping away at Escaner, Greer was able to finally chop him down.
"I had to wait for him to soften up, but I did what I had to do," Greer said. "It's all a learning experience for me. But I'm from Chicago. I had to go take it."
At the time of the stoppage, Greer was up on the cards by scores of 67-65, 67-66 and 67-65.