Rob Brant vs. Vitaliy Kopylenko & The Return Of Clay
Collard Set For Alvarez-Smith Aug. 22 Card
Former middleweight world champion Rob “Bravo” Brant’s
comeback begins in a Las Vegas “Bubble.” Brant, who lost his
belt to Ryota Murata last July and had a January return
scrapped due to a torn biceps, will fight Vitaliy Kopylenko
in a 10-round middleweight tilt Saturday, August 22 from the
MGM Grand Conference Center.
Brant-Kopylenko will serve as the co-feature to the
Eleider-Alvarez-Joe Smith Jr. light heavyweight world title
eliminator live and exclusively on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET).
The undercard stream (ESPN+, 7:30 p.m. ET) features the
return of boxing’s newest cult hero, “Cassius” Clay Collard,
the former UFC fighter who is the leading contender for 2020
Prospect of the Year.
“We have a can’t-miss main event and the highly anticipated
returns of Rob Brant and Clay Collard. What a night at the
fights inside the ‘Bubble,’” said Top Rank chairman Bob
Arum. “Rob is rejuvenated and ready to begin his ascent
towards another world title. As for Clay, whenever he
fights, he delivers.”
Brant (25-2, 17 KOs) upset the odds in October 2018,
defeating Murata by unanimous decision to win the WBA world
title nearly one year removed from his loss to Jürgen
Brähmer. He defended his world title once, then traveled to
Murata’s home country of Japan intent on repeating the deed.
Instead, Murata turned the tables, knocking out Brant in the
second round of a slugfest that saw 354 punches thrown in
334 seconds of action. Following the Murata defeat, Brant
hired a new trainer in Brian McIntyre, who is best known for
his work with pound-for-pound king Terence “Bud” Crawford
and WBO junior lightweight world champion Jamel “Semper Fi”
Kopylenko (28-2, 16 KOs), from Vasylkiv, Ukraine hopes to
rebound from a May 2019 split decision loss to Steven
Butler. Prior to the Butler loss, he’d won six consecutive
bouts. A 12-year pro, Kopylenko advanced to the semifinals
of the 2014 "Boxcino" middleweight tournament, which aired
as part of the ESPN “Friday Night Fights” series.
“I have worked extremely hard, even though the current
climate through the pandemic has been a bit hectic,” Brant
said. “After physical therapy, I stayed focused on my
nutrition, thanks to my wonderful wife, Tiffany, and began
doing a lot of distance running until I was cleared to start
punching again. I have been in camp for close to three
months now and feel very strong and confident. Kopylenko is
talented with a great body attack. I am very confident, but
I respect his skill set and will prepare like this is a
world title bout. I’m back!”
Collard (8-2-3, 3 KOs) will face Maurice Williams in a
middleweight bout scheduled for eight or six rounds, his
third “Bubble" appearance since June 18. Collard is 4-0 in
2020, including three victories over previously undefeated
prospects. Williams (7-1, 3 KOs) has won five in a row since
a fifth-round TKO loss to Dennis Knifechief in November
2016. He has since avenged his loss to Knifechief twice,
including a third-round TKO victory.
“I just look at this as another fight. Nothing’s really
changed other than the attention I’m getting," Collard said.
"I’m loving all of this. I’m just training and getting ready
to do what I love.
“I didn’t know how I’d like fighting without fans and being
quarantined, but I enjoy fighting for Top Rank in the
'Bubble.' I’m just blessed to be part of this experience."
In other undercard action:
In a 10-round duel of unbeaten junior welterweights, Julian
“Hammer Hands” Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KOs) will take on
“Action” Anthony Laureano (13-0, 4 KOs). Rodriguez, a
seven-year pro from Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., went 3-0 in
2019 following a nearly two-year layoff.
Star Boxing-promoted prospect Wendy Toussaint (11-0, 5 KOs)
will take on “Bubble” veteran Isiah Jones (9-2, 3 KOs) in a
middleweight fight scheduled for eight or six rounds. Jones,
who went 1-1 inside the “Bubble” in June, is coming off a
majority decision victory June 30 over the previously
unbeaten Donte Stubbs.
In scheduled six-round contests, Robert Rodriguez (8-0-1, 4
KOs) will fight Abel Soriano (10-0, 7 KOs) at bantamweight,
while knockout artist Israel Mercado (7-0, 7 KOs) will
battle fellow California native Adrian Valdovinos (5-0-1, 4
KOs) at junior welterweight.
Former U.S. amateur star Duke Ragan, from Cincinnati, will
make his long-awaited professional debut against Luis
Alvarado (1-1) in a four-rounder at featherweight.