Bryant Jennings and Mike Perez met in a Philly vs. Cuban-Irish heavyweight clash, in the HBO TV opener, at Madison Square Garden on Saturday evening. Expectations for both men in their camps were high, and I dare say neither man showed the brilliance that it was hoped they’d present. Perez looked to get a bit gassed early, while Jennings appeared to be put off by Perez’ bulk and clinching. The judges tallied the cards and presented a decision after twelve rounds: 114-113 (Perez), 115-112 (Jennings), 114-113 (Jennings).
Jennings, who took up boxing about four years ago, entered with an 18-0 mark (10 Kos), while Perez, best known for beating Magomed Abdusalamov last November, and then being horrified to see the Russian fall into a coma, came in at 20-0 with 12 KOs.
The winner is supposed to receive a crack at the WBC title, currently held by Bermane Stiverne, who will likely fight Alabaman Deontay Wilder in December.
In the first, Perez was a bit busier, and his right to the body late was the best punch of the round. He was the more flat footed with Jennings not doing much beyond a so-so jab.
In the second, Perez was the more assertive, as he stalked, and landed, though Jennings had luck with a couple sharp counters.
In the third, Jennings had luck with crisp, short shots to the head. Perez was playing the bully, his bulk helping him push the Philly fighter around some. The Cuban was going to the body a bit but I wondered how his stamina would hold, as I saw his hands dropping already.
In the fourth, we saw more clinching, with Perez the instigator more so. Jennings was now more often the stalker, rushing at Perez. His activity rate carried the round for Jennings.
In the fifth, Jennings went right at the body, looking to sap his foe more. He moved more, mixing it up from round to round. Jennings looked at the ref about once a round, but after this occurrence, landed a sharp combo. The left hook by BYJ had the crowd appreciating.
In the sixth, Perez clowned and mugged, and worked to the body. He was a notch busier than the previous round, and Jennings wasn’t asserting control.
In the seventh, Perez looked tired after throwing two shots but he’d wrap up the Philly man after. Jennings was the busier man and his left hook to the jaw maybe took the round for him.
In the eighth, Perez ate a right that had him hiccup step at 35 seconds. The round was tight till then… Perez tried to shove Jennings down after, playing the bully role.
In the ninth, the quick right worked for BYJ. His power shots to the head, not too hurtful but obvious, took the round for him. His foe didn’t scream energized, and was losing in the activity department. In the 10th, I wished if I was Team Jennings the guy would use his legs to get an angle and pepper the more tired Perez.
In the 11th, Jennings came out fiery, in attack mode. Both men caught the other at 1:55, and then Perez’ body work was standing out. Jennings worked harder late, while Perez held more. Another tight round…
In the 12th, ref Harvey Dock took a point from Perez, for hitting on a break. They started strong but just were too gassed to light it up. We’d go to the cards..