Just a few days after Top Rank announced that former middleweight world titlist Rob Brant would face former super middleweight world title challenger Habib "Wild Hurricane" Ahmed in the co-feature of its Jan. 11 ESPN card, Brant withdrew Monday because of torn biceps.
With Brant out and the fight off, Top Rank announced that Steve Nelson would face Cem Kilic in a 10-round match between undefeated super middleweights in place of Brant-Ahmed on the card headlined by a light heavyweight bout between contenders Jesse Hart and Joe Smith Jr.
The show will take place at Etess Arena at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 10 p.m. ET, with preliminary bouts streaming on ESPN+ beginning at 7 p.m. ET).
Nelson and Kilic, who will square off for a vacant regional title, were originally scheduled to meet on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York in a preliminary bout on the undercard of Terence Crawford's mandatory welterweight title defense against "Mean Machine" Egidijus Kavaliauskas, but the fight was moved to replace Brant-Ahmed.
Nelson (15-0, 12 KOs), 31, who like Crawford is from Omaha, Nebraska, and trained by Brian McIntyre, is excited to have a bigger spotlight with the fight higher up on the televised card.
"This is one of those moments. When this opportunity presented itself, I knew I had to take it," said Nelson, a 2012 U.S. Olympic alternate. "I compare this to when Terence Crawford got the late call to fight Breidis Prescott on HBO. He took advantage of that opportunity, and I am going to take advantage of the ESPN spotlight."
The Los Angeles-based Germany native, Kilic (14-0, 9 KOs), 25, was also happy with the unexpected turn of events.
"While I'm disappointed not to fight on the Dec. 14 card, I am beyond excited to showcase my talent to an even bigger audience just four weeks later on ESPN," Kilic said. "I have been working hard in Florida with [trainer] Buddy McGirt so all sports fans can see the best Cem Kilic on fight night.