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Three Punch Combo: Which of These Damaged Goods Will Be the Next Rob Brant?

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  • Three Punch Combo: Which of These Damaged Goods Will Be the Next Rob Brant?

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    By Matt Andrzejewski

    THREE PUNCH COMBO -- Rob Brant was once considered a top prospect. He was a decorated amateur and put on some early performances in his pro career that had many thinking he’d be a future world champion. In July of 2017, Brant was 22-0 and accepted an invitation to enter the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight tournament.

    There were several solid names in the eight man tournament but many thought Brant (pictured) had the tools and talent to win this prestigious event. However, in his quarterfinal match in Germany against veteran Juergen Braehmer, Brant brought nothing to the table and lost a wide 12-round unanimous decision. Brant was not only out of the tournament but many in boxing wrote him off following this disappointing performance.

    A year later, Brant would move back into contention into his more natural division at middleweight and this time face highly touted WBA world title holder Ryota Murata. Brant was a considerable underdog in this contest in part due to his performance a year earlier against Braehmer, but he stepped up to the occasion and put on a dazzling performance in winning a clear cut unanimous decision. This Friday on ESPN, Brant, who is now 24-1 with 16 KO’s, will make his first defense against Khasan Baysangurov (17-0, 7 KO’s) at the Grand Casino in Hinckley in his home state of Minnesota.

    The story of Rob Brant is not uncommon. A big time prospect suffers a bad defeat but learns from that loss to bounce back and live up to the high expectations that he once carried.

    So who could be the next Rob Brant? Here are three possibilities, fighters whose career paths have followed a similar road to that of Brant and could be the next to emerge after disappointing setbacks.

    Ryan Martin (22-1, 12 KO’s)

    Ryan Martin was a highly decorated US amateur with reportedly over 200 wins in the unpaid ranks. Almost instantly after turning pro, he began appearing on top prospects lists and many thought the sky was the limit for him.

    Blessed with natural athletic ability, Martin showcased his talent early in his career putting on some eye popping performances that reinforced the thought that he’d be a future star. He not only had natural talent and athletic ability but had developed seasoned skills from his amateur days.

    On September 16th, 2017 Martin received a coveted showcase on the undercard of Canelo-Golovkin I against tough veteran Francisco Rojo. And though he was not as dominant as he was in earlier fights, Martin found a way with his speed to defeat a very capable opponent to move from prospect to contender in the 140-pound division.

    Similar to Brant, Martin’s next big step would be entering the World Boxing Super Series which was now in its second season. And like Rob Brant, Martin was packed off to Europe. In Scotland, he was pitted against another bright young 140-pound prospect in Josh Taylor.

    Martin was a sizable underdog, but many thought he’d give Taylor a tough test at the very least with an upset not out of the question, notwithstanding the fact that the fight would be contested on Taylor’s turf . But Martin fizzled out big time. Looking like a deer caught in headlights, he was stopped in round seven in a one-sided contest.

    Two months later, it came out that Martin had failed a VADA administered drug test. (Martin has disputed the results and the matter is still pending.)

    Martin has some things to sort out in his career, namely the failed VADA test, but there is no disputing his talent. His natural athletic ability and blazing hand speed cannot be taught in the gym. Did the moment get to Martin? It is entirely possible and just as entirely possible that Martin learns from this setback to come out a better fighter. The loss to Taylor could ultimately be a blessing in disguise for Martin as he enters the next stage of his professional career.

    Antonio Orozco (27-1, 17 KO’s)

    Orozco can best be described as a skilled pressure fighter. Early in his career, he overwhelmed opponents with his relentless pressure and heavy hands. But as his career progressed, Orozco developed good boxing skills and became a well-rounded fighter.

    Those well-rounded skills were on display in two superb performances in 2015 against Emmanuel Taylor and Humberto Soto. Orozco applied pressure in spots but also worked effectively behind the jab in winning unanimous decisions in both of those 10-round fights. A world title shot seemed to be just around the corner.

    But Orozco’s career stalled following those wins. He struggled a year later against journeyman Abner Lopez in a fight in which his defensive liabilities were exposed. There were also issues at the scale and Orozco lost opportunities at a pair of big fights when he failed to make the contracted weight.

    However, last September Orozco finally got his world title shot against Jose Ramirez. Orozco fought admirably but once again defensive inefficiencies proved his downfall as he dropped a wide decision.

    Up until the Ramirez fight, Orozco had gotten away with his defensive flaws. If he can get some of these flaws tightened up, he can still make some noise. It is way too early to write him off. Odds are he will find himself with another opportunity sooner rather than later. If Orozco can learn from this loss, he could easily turn that next opportunity into something special.

    Felix Verdejo (24-1, 16 KO’s)

    Before he had his first pro fight, Felix Verdejo was already being hailed as the next great fighter from Puerto Rico and a future pay-per-view star. And when he was knocked out by Antonio Lozada last year, many wrote him off as just another prospect who will never pan out.

    There is no question Verdejo is blessed with amazing natural talent. He can not only punch but has fast hands and is incredibly athletic. But there were red flags leading up to the Lozada loss. As Verdejo stepped up in class against better fighters, his performances seemed sluggish. He didn’t seem to be developing. There were questions about his training habits and how serious he was taking the sport.

    Sometimes a humbling experience like the one Verdejo experienced against Lozada can be the catalyst for major changes. How bad does Verdejo want it and will being humbled cause him to make the necessary changes to live up to his potential?

    It is way too early to write off Verdejo. The natural talent that got everyone excited still exists. It is the proper dedication to the sport that was clearly missing. If he commits himself to boxing, Verdejo can bounce back and turn the negative experience of the loss into a positive one for his career.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Nicely done Matt. I am writing off Verdejo but not the others.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Kid Blast View Post
      Nicely done Matt. I am writing off Verdejo but not the others.
      Thanks KB.

      I think Verdejo can bounce back. His loss will serve as a wake up call and he is going to start taking his career more seriously. The talent is still there.


      • #4
        Ryan Martin was one of the most talented prospects I have ever seen. I think he got caught in the moment against Josh Taylor. He also has the issue with the VADA test which he fighting at this moment. But I do think he overcomes the fight with Taylor, learns from the experience and in 18 months or so wins some sort of title. The skills and talent are there and it is way too early to write him off.

        As for Orozco, he's going to get an opportunity again and I suspect it will come sooner rather than later. He fought admirably against Ramirez and showed tons of heart. It was also the first loss of his career and I think he will go back to the gym and tighten things up on the defensive side. I have been high on Orozco for some time and see him bouncing back in short order.

        A couple other names that could be added to this list as well who fought this weekend as Joseph Diaz and Erickson Lubin.


        • Kid Blast
          Kid Blast commented
          Editing a comment
          Diaz lost. I could not believe that.