Middleweight contender Rob Brant learned a hard lesson last October, when he moved up to the super middleweight division to participate in the World Boxing Super Series and was humbled in a one-sided decision loss to aging former light heavyweight titlist Juergen Braehmer in Germany.
"I learned if I don't do everything I can in every round I can lose," Brant said. "I just wasn't really myself. I had to learn a lesson and I took a loss. I think I got a little bit lazy. I took a lot of his boxing skills for granted. He definitely won the fight. Mentally, I wasn't there. I was traveling abroad for the first time as a professional.
"I got out of my game and he did everything in his power and won the fight. No excuses. But I learned that lesson and now we are moving forward."
Brant returned to middleweight following his only defeat and won a comeback fight by first-round knockout over journeyman Colby Courter in March. Now he's ready for a far more meaningful bout and said he will never forget the lesson he learned that night against Braehmer.
He said it will be on his mind as he works hard in every round when he challenges secondary middleweight world titleholder Ryota Murata in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card on Saturday (ESPN+, 10:30 p.m. ET for main card, 7 p.m. for preliminaries) at the Park MGM in Las Vegas.
"That (loss to Braehmer) will never go away in my mind," Brant said. "If it does that opens me up to making those same mistakes again. As much as I hate to have taken a loss, I would never go back on that because of what I've learned. That will be on my mind."
Brant (23-1, 16 KOs), 28, who is from Saint Paul, Minnesota, and lives in Dallas, has been training for the past eight weeks in Las Vegas in his first camp with trainer and former light heavyweight world titlist Eddie Mustafa Muhammad.
"It's kind of a dream for me to be fighting for a title in Las Vegas," said Brant, who is Murata's mandatory challenger. "It's huge for me. It's everything I've worked for. It's very exciting to have my first fight in Las Vegas be for a title. I will rise to the occasion. I want to say I won my title in Las Vegas. This is it."
The belt he will fight for is the WBA's secondary title. Canelo Alvarez is the top champion and Brant is under no illusions that a victory will make him the recognized world champion. But winning it, he said, will be the start of the road to where he wants to go.
"It's kind of a dream for me to be fighting for a title in Las Vegas. It's huge for me. It's everything I've worked for. It's very exciting to have my first fight in Las Vegas be for a title. I will rise to the occasion. I want to say I won my title in Las Vegas. This is it." Rob Brant
"This is still a title belt but you don't get content with it," he said. "It's the beginning. You're looked at a lot more and it gives you more opportunities if you win. If you win this belt it gets you to bigger and better belts. Once you collect them all you can sit down and say you're the guy. Until then you're not."
Brant believes if he applies pressure and stays busy he will defeat Murata (14-1, 11 KOs), 32, who will be making his second title defense.
"They've picked a lot of tailor-made guys for him and I just think bullying the bully will do the trick against this guy," Brant said. "He's very fundamentally sound but if he's pushed back, if you keep him on his back foot, he will focus 90 percent on defense and 10 percent on counterpunching. So I think it's going to be tough for him. He just got here this week. It will be tough to adjust to the pace we trained to bring."
Murata, a major star in Japan, has fought in the United States twice before -- both times in Las Vegas -- but this is first headline fight and he is looking forward to it.
"I am honored to be here in Las Vegas. I want to show everyone a great fight. Brant is a great fighter, and beating him would mean a lot for my career," Murata said through a translator. "I want everyone to watch on ESPN+ to see a great fight. I'm going to take what I learned in the gym and show it in the ring. I am happy to be a headliner, but there is more to come. I think there are bigger and better fights for me. This is just a start."
It's no secret that a victory against Brant could propel Murata into a spring fight against former unified world champion Gennady Golovkin. Murata co-promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank has had conversations with GGG promoter Tom Loeffler about doing such a fight at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.
"It would be nice if it happens. It would be especially nice because it would be good for boxing," Murata said. "I think it would be a war. I think it would be a real exciting fight."
That said, Murata said he'd prefer to fight unified champion Canelo Alvarez, who won the belts from Golovkin by majority decision on Sept. 15 in a rematch of their draw last year.
"I would like to fight Canelo Alvarez, but without the Mexican beef," Murata said -- in English -- taking a jab at Alvarez for his failed drug tests in February for the banned substance clenbuterol that he blamed on eating contaminated Mexican beef.
Brant has heard the rumblings of the possible fight between Murata and Golovkin.
"It would be their biggest fault to look past me and look at this fight as a step to getting a GGG fight," Brant said. "I'm only focused on Ryota Murata. That's strength for me. The only thing I've been focused on is Ryota Murata, (a 2012) Olympic gold medalist, who deserves a lot of respect. That's what I focus on.
"If they focus on fights they may have later that's a big, big mistake. They're setting themselves up for a bit of disappointment. I'm just prepared to beat him up for 12 rounds."