Former middleweight world titlist Rob Brant has an opponent for his ring return.
He will face former super middleweight world title challenger Habib "Wild Hurricane" Ahmed, Top Rank announced Thursday.
The 10-round middleweight fight will be the co-feature of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card headlined by light heavyweight Jesse Hart against Joe Smith Jr. on Jan. 11 (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 10 p.m. ET, with preliminary bouts streaming on ESPN+ beginning at 7 p.m. ET) at Etess Arena at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Brant is seeking to rebound from losing his secondary 160-pound belt by second-round knockout to Ryota Murata in a July 12 rematch on Murata's turf in Osaka, Japan. Brant had easily outpointed Murata in their first fight to take the title in October 2018 in Las Vegas and made one defense before the rematch.
Murata and Brant are due to meet for a third time as long as Murata retains the title in a defense against Steven Butler on Dec 23 (ESPN+) in Yokohama, Japan, and Brant defeats Ahmed.
Brant (25-2, 17 KOs), 29, a St. Paul, Minnesota native who lives in Dallas, will be fighting for the first time since parting ways with trainer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad to join the camp of Brian McIntyre, who also trains welterweight world titlist Terence Crawford, junior lightweight titleholder Jamel Herring and former junior welterweight titlist Maurice Hooker.
"I am excited to be back fighting under the Top Rank banner with a new team," Brant said. "Training in Colorado Springs has shown me what it's like to work with a coaching staff that has mastered their craft. I am expecting a tough fight with Ahmed, as he has proven to be a dangerous Ghanaian fighter. I'm confident my team will train me to showcase my talent.
"There hasn't been a day that has gone by that I haven't thought about regaining my title. None of that happens until I conquer the task at hand. I will reign again as a world champion."
Ahmed (27-1-1, 18 KOs), 29, of Ghana, challenged Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez for his super middleweight world title in February 2018 and suffered a sixth-round knockout loss. He has won two fights in a row since and moved down to middleweight for his most recent fight on May 25.
"This is a great opportunity to prove I am a middleweight to watch," said Ahmed, who will be fighting in the United States for the third time. "Super middleweight was not my natural weight, and I feel fresher and more powerful since moving down in weight. Rob Brant and his team made the wrong choice for a comeback opponent. I am coming to shock the boxing world and earn another world title shot."
In preliminary fights that will be part of the ESPN+ portion of the card:
Lightweight Joseph Adorno (14-0, 12 KOs), 20, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, who is one of Top Rank's best prospects, will face Hector Garcia (14-7-3, 8 KOs), 25, of Mexico, in an eight-round bout.
Junior featherweight Jeremy Adorno (3-0, 1 KO), Joseph's 18-year-old brother, will fight Artrimus Sartor (4-3, 1 KO), 33, of Cincinnati, in a four-round bout.
Super middleweight Chris Thomas (13-1-1, 8 KOs), 21, of Toms River, New Jersey, will fight for the sixth time in Atlantic City when he meets Samir Barbosa (37-16-3, 26 KOs), 39, of Brazil, in a six-rounder.
Welterweight Shinard Bunch (4-1, 4 KOs), 20, of Trenton, New Jersey, will square off with Dennis Okoth (4-2-1, 2 KOs), 26, of Kenya, in a six-rounder.
Philadelphia heavyweight prospect Sonny "The Bronco" Conto (5-0, 4 KOs), 23, will face an opponent to be determined in a six-round fight.
Welterweight Xander Zayas (2-0, 2 KOs), the 17-year-old blue-chip prospect and high school senior from Sunrise, Florida, who won his second pro fight by first-round KO last Saturday, will face Antonio Duarte (2-2, 0 KOs), 32, of Mexico, in a four-round bout.