Brand-new WBA World Middleweight Champion Rob “Bravo” Brant says he goes everywhere with his new best friend. “The belt hasn’t left my side since they handed it to me,” laughs the personable new champion from Saint Paul, Minnesota.
28-year-old Brant (24-1, 16 KOs) says he went into his main-event showdown with then champion Ryota Murata (14-2, 11 KOs), last Saturday night at the Park MGM in Las Vegas (and live on ESPN+), unaware he was such a heavy underdog.
“I really did go into it very confident I would win, just off the preparations we did,” said Brant, who was having his first fight with former world champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad as his trainer. “I tried to stay away from news when I was in training, so I had no idea how big of an underdog I was. We had a post-fight press conference and that was when I found out. When reporters were asking about it. I had no idea. It wouldn’t have deterred me anyway if I had known.”
Despite the doubts of the bookmakers, Brant cruised to a lopsided 12-round unanimous decision over 2012 Olympic gold medalist Murata, with two judges giving him all but one round, the other all but two. Brant busted up the now ex-champion with a piston-like jab and peppered him with combinations throughout what turned out to be a surprisingly dominant performance.
According to CompuBox statistics, Brant landed 356 of 1,262 punches (28 percent) while Murata connected with just 180 of 774 (23 percent).
“As a pro, he hasn’t seen what I gave him,” explained Brant. We knew he had a hard time with hand speed and jabs. He locks up when punches are being thrown, so we made sure we kept him backing up and worried about the jab and punches in general. The more he thinks about my shots, the less he throws. We knew we’d be able to keep him on his back foot. Eddie Mustafa is very strict on letting the hands go. We were big on the cardio in training and keeping the punch rate high. And when you’re keeping the jab out there all the time, other shots open up.”
Brant says at fight’s end, he wasn’t worried about the decision going his way.
“I’ve always felt that judges’ decisions are out of my hands. I was nervous about it, you don’t know until they announce your name, but I knew I had done what I felt was my best work. I had a great sense of pride and relief knowing I put it all out there and did everything possible to win. But now that I have won, it’s kind of like having giant weight lifted off my shoulders. It’s definitely my biggest accomplishment ever, winning in Vegas against a former Olympic gold medallist. It’s everything I ever worked for. It was the best feeling in the world. I knew how much I worked for that. Boxing gives back what you put into it and I put my everything into it.”
Although Brant and promoters GCP reportedly agreed to a rematch before the fight, the new champion says he’s not sure the now ex-champion wants it.
“All the talk of a rematch has been from his promoters. I haven’t heard him say anything about it. He might be a little discouraged right now. I’m not saying he won’t be able to come back, but I don’t think he wants it right now. I’ll just go on to bigger and better in the division. Once you win a title, there are no more easy fights. Until you are the undisputed king, you’re always taking steps up in class in every fight.”
Brant says he took a week off but is now back in the gym and ready for what comes next.
“I’m just waiting for the next assignment to work toward. I want to know who my next opponent is as soon as possible, so I can go to sleep at night thinking of what I’m going to do. Watching film and looking for flaws and things I can exploit. That’s when I‘m really the most comfortable. When I have an assignment. It’ll be a big name eventually. I’m there now. So I’m just waiting to see who is next for me to spend all my time watching that person.”
Brant gives a big piece of the credit for his upset victory to the only man to ever beat him. Last October, he stepped up in weight to participate in the World Boxing Super Series as a super middleweight and lost a one-sided decision to former light heavyweight champion Juergen Braehmer in Germany.
“The thought of what happened against Braehmer was always in the background. That’s what really motivated me to be the best I could in this fight. I knew I was better than I was in that fight. I had to prove it by doing what I’m capable of. The loss to Braehmer will be in the back of my mind forever. I won’t let anyone else do that to me again. I will never forget that loss and I’ve been a better fighter from that point forward.”