Midget heavyweights meet, as Cuban-born Mike Perez and American Bryant Jennings enter the ring this weekend.
Heavyweight giants reigned supreme for the past 20 years and now a pair of prizefighters barely past six feet in height meet in Madison Square Garden. Jennings (18-0, 10 Kos) versus Perez (20-0-1, 12 Kos) will be shown on HBO tonight.
It’s not to say Perez or Jennings are incapable of winning a future heavyweight world title. Decades have proven otherwise, but for the last 20 years the big guys have dominated. And when smaller heavyweights win, they usually pack big man howitzer-like power, a la Rocky Marciano or Iron Mike Tyson.
Perez nor Jennings possess big gun-stopping power, at least they have not proven it.
“I’ve only been boxing for five years. I didn’t ask to be a boxer. I came in with a mindset and a lifestyle that was fit for boxing, and I knew exactly how hard it was going to take for me to work. I just want to get through. I just want to get through,” said Jennings, 29, who lives in Philadelphia.
Perez looks to improve on his last fight, a draw against Carlos Takam, a hard fought scrabble that seemed to show his flaws more than his strongpoints.
“People can think whatever they want to think. Actually I don’t care,” said Perez, 28.
The winner of this fight throws his hat into the fray with another giant. Can either Perez or Jennings match the big guys?
The big guys
The retirement of 6-7 Vitali Klitschko, who held the WBC title, leaves brother Wladimir (6’5” ) as the remaining giant with a world title. Before that British giant Lennox Lewis (6’5”) held the titles. And for a while there was Nikolay Valuev who towered above all heavyweights at 7-feet.
More than a few giants remain, with Deontay Wilder, Charles Martin and Dominic Breazeale roaming the heavyweight landscape.
Perez and Jennings barely touch 6’2” in height. And current WBC titlist Bermane Stiverne looks to be about the same height.
Is this a return to normalcy?
Actually, when you look back, heavyweight giants have been a fixture for more than 100 years. Though Jack Johnson was called the “Galveston Giant” he was a mere 6’1” in height. But Jess Willard stood nearly 6’7” depending on which newspaper accounts you want to believe. When Jack Dempsey came along and destroyed Willard the average size of the heavyweight champions shrank again until Primo Carnera came along. The Italian heavyweight stood close to 6’6” and enjoyed success during the 1930s.
For the next 50 years the tallest heavyweight champion was George Foreman at nearly 6’4”. Contenders like Ernie Terrell at 6’6” and George Cooney at 6’5” were rare until Riddick Bowe showed up with an abundance of talent. The 6’5” heavyweight called “Big Daddy” toppled Evander Holyfield in two of three confrontations and suddenly hung up his gloves in 1996. Then came Lennox Lewis and his reign followed by Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko.
Has the reign of giants ended? Probably not.
The victor between Perez and Jennings heads toward the front of the line. Either fighter still has some giant steps to take.