After scoring one of boxing's biggest upsets of 2018, Rob Brant finally gets his chance at the spotlight as a world champion.
Brant's first test as the WBA "Regular" 160-pound champion will have him take on undefeated contender Khasan Baysangurov in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing card televised on ESPN on February 15. The fight will take place at the Grand Casino in Hinckley, Minnesota, allowing Brant to return to his birth state and have a homecoming of sorts.
The champion's journey to the world title started with his first and only pro defeat. In 2017, Brant moved up in weight to be a part of the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight tournament, where he was paired up against former world champion Juergen Braehmer in the quarterfinals. Brant was soundly beaten by Braehmer and became an afterthought by the boxing community.
After bouncing back from the loss with a win in March 2018, Brant moved into mandatory challenger status against the WBA title held by Ryota Murata at the time. Murata and Brant fought last fall in Las Vegas and many had tabbed Murata to be a big favorite and the fight as a stay-busy fight in order to transition into a potential fight between Murata and Gennady Golovkin. Brant took the lessons he learned in his defeat to Braehmer and turned it into a one-sided beatdown over Murata to become a world champion for the first time in his career.
Now that Brant is the champion, he will be the one who will have the target on his back. Baysangurov is only 21 years old but has become one of the young, rising stars coming out of Russia. Having fought the majority of his career in Ukraine, Baysangurov never made much of an impression on boxing pundits in the west, but that doesn't deny the upside Baysangurov carries.
Baysangurov has won all 17 of his pro bouts since making his debut in 2013 and won the WBA Intercontinental in May 2018. In his last fight in October, Baysangurov got a win against perhaps the biggest name on his resume in Paul Valenzuela Jr., who has faced the likes of current world champions Jaime Munguia and Tony Harrison.
Below is the full card, which will be shown on either ESPN+ or televised on ESPN:
- Rob Brant vs. Khasan Baysangurov: WBA "Regular" Middleweight Title
- Joshua Greer Jr. vs. Giovanni Escaner: WBC Continental Americas Bantamweight Title
- Mikaela Mayer vs. Yareli Larios: NABF Female Super Featherweight Title
- Derrick Webster vs. Lennox Allen
- Steven Nelson vs. Felipe Romero
- Ismail Muwendo vs. Hevinson Herrera
- Kevin Cruz vs. Rondale Hubbert
- Albert Bell vs. Edward Kakembo
- Cem Kilic vs. Zachariah Kelley
- Ramiro Hernandez vs. Gavino Guaman
- Joe James vs. Demetrius Wilson
Tale of the Tape:
Record: 24-1 (16 KO)
Notable Fights: Juergen Braehmer, Ryota Murata
Titles Won: WBA "Regular" Middleweight title
Record: 17-0 (7 KO)
Notable Fights: Paul Valenzuela Jr.
Titles Won: WBA Intercontinental Middleweight title