A lot of intrigue surrounds this weekend’s middleweight clash in Las Vegas.

Rob Brant is tasked with attempting to derail rising contender Janibek Alimkhanuly (9-0, 5KOs), a 2016 Olympian for his native Kazakhstan who is already being groomed for a title shot. It’s a stage on which Brant (26-2, 18KOs) has already enjoyed, previously holding a secondary version of the WBA middleweight title and still remaining among the division’s top talents.

The formula makes for an appealing matchup this Saturday, which airs live on ESPN+ from Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

“I’m very excited about this fight. Janibek is not your average opponent,” Brant acknowledged to BoxingScene.com. “He’s a former amateur star, an Olympian and is capable of making it to the top as a pro. It’s my job to prove myself against him this weekend, not to serve as a test for him. I’m here to show that I’m ready to fight again for the middleweight championship.”

Brant has fought just once since his title reign came to a close nearly two years ago, in large part due to injury and the pandemic. The 30-year-old Minnesota native suffered a second-round stoppage at the hands of Ryota Murata in their July 2019 rematch, nine months after scoring a landslide unanimous decision win in their October 2018 title fight.

In the time since the rematch, Brant was forced to withdraw from a January 2020 fight due to a torn biceps that required surgery. He was able to return to the ring last August, earning a fifth-round knockout win over Vitaliy Kopylenko (28-3, 16KOs) in his first fight with renowned head trainer Brian ‘Bomac’ McIntyre. The bout took place behind closed doors at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, while this weekend’s showdown with the unbeaten Alimkhanuly will come with the venue open to a planned capacity crowd.

A win could place Brant back on track for a second title shot, though he is wisely saving all of his energy for this weekend. The former titlist enters as a +275 betting underdog according to BetMGM, while Alimkhanuly enters at -400 according to the same sportsbook.

The sure bet is that both fighters have the other’s undivided attention.

“I don’t expect him to overlook me, just like he knows I’m not overlooking him,” notes Brant, who is also expecting his first child later this year. “He didn’t reach the level he did as an amateur by looking past any opponents. I expect him to be at his absolute best, like I am his ticket to a title shot.

“I know that’s how I’m viewing this fight, it’s my opportunity to get back on that stage. I had two long layoffs in my career. I’m looking forward to staying busy and getting back to a title fight.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox