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Can Bryant Jennings Help American Heavyweights Turn the Tide?

BY Kelsey McCarson ON July 23, 2014
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Bryant Jennings meets Mike Perez Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York in a bout that will help determine what direction the heavyweight division is heading.

Will American heavyweights such as Jennings be able to catch up with the rest of the world and once again compete at the highest levels of the division? Or is the new normal of fighters from outside the U.S. dominating the upper echelon of the heavyweight division something that will continue on into the future?

Jennings, alongside Deontay Wilder, represents America’s best hope for heavyweight glory. While the latter competed in the 2008 Olympics and came home with a bronze medal, neither man particularly relies on a wealth of amateur experience. In fact, Jennings was just 13-4 as an amateur.

Jennings told me in May before the bout was postponed to July that he knew he was behind the eight ball from the first moment he stepped into the ring as a professional.

“I just keep doing what I have to do. I realized that I had to put in overtime and I had to do a lot of extra things. I had to put in a lot of extra work, and I was dedicated. I knew that’s what I had to do...I knew I had to do it to catch up and get to where I am right now.”

There’s a lot to like about Jennings. He seems to have a sharp wit and a business-minded head on his shoulders. His fighting style is enjoyable to watch. He boxes well from the outside, and does it enough so that he stays upright in front of heavy punchers. But he also fights aggressively and throws combinations to make up for his lack of punching power.

He’ll need all that and more against Perez, a smallish but superbly skilled heavyweight who is hard to beat when he’s at his best. Perez won the World Junior Amateur Championships at light heavyweight in 2004 for Cuba. Since defecting to Ireland in 2007, he has compiled a solid professional record with 20 wins, no losses. In January, Perez fought to a 10-round draw with Carlos Takam in what may have been a lackluster effort spurred on by Perez’s previous win, a tragic encounter with Magomed Abdusalamov.

Though he doesn’t possess the same level of experience of Perez as an amateur, the 29-year-old Jennings is one year his senior.

“I’ve been on earth longer so I have experienced a lot of things, maybe even some things he hasn’t experienced,” said Jennings.

Jennings has his eyes set on Perez at the moment, but he also said the ultimate goal was to dethrone lineal champion Wladimir Klitschko as soon as possible.

“That’s the top. That’s the peak. That’s where it’s at. Anything else? It almost don’t make no sense. You fight so hard to get to that point…I need that. I want that.”

The brass over at HBO thinks Perez has a shot at being an attractive fight for Klitsckho. HBO Sports’ director of programming, Peter Nelson, said the winner of Jennings-Perez will have gone a long way in that regard.

“Perez-Jennings is going to produce a winner that will be recognized as having competed against an elite-level opponent and come out of the other side of that. That’s about as high a level you can attain in the heavyweight division before you take your chance against the best.”

Jennings believes wholeheartedly he can beat Perez and ultimately do the same against Klitschko. Right now, of course, he said his attention was solely on preparing for his fight with Perez.

“I just prepare [by] pushing myself [and] knowing that my best can always beat his best.”

Host of HBO Boxing telecasts Jim Lampley indicated he was looking forward to seeing how the fight shakes out.

“It’s a very interesting matchup because Perez has a deeper amateur background and more technical training at an earlier age than Jennings had.”

Lampley isn’t sold yet on Jennings being a legitimate threat to Klitschko, but said there was a lot to like about Jennings’ approach at this stage of his career.

“Jennings is a little different than most other guys, because he begins with being more technical and a defensive-based approach. Jennings’ idea is not that he’s going to step inside the ring and knock you out with one big right hand...but rather he’s going to outthink you and break you down over a period of rounds.”

Jennings said he hopes to outthink and break down the heavyweight division in its entirety, but in terms of bringing American heavyweight boxing back to where it once was, he indicated he would need some help from his compatriots.

“Trust me. I can’t do it alone. I’m one of the guys. I think that it’s just going to take more than one guy.”

Still, the one guy in the group that fights on Saturday night, Jennings, has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. Against Perez, Jennings has a fighting chance to set himself up for a shot at the heavyweight championship of the world.

“I was fed a dream, and I just kept eating away at it. And here I am.”

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Comment on this article

ArneK. says:

It may help Jennings that his last outing was with another southpaw.

stormcentre says:

If Perez is on his "A" game and not still psychologically impacted from the Mago incident Jennings will be KO'd or beaten up.

The fluidity of Perez' punches, his power and his footwork, will be too much for Jennings; particularly if Perez gets inside.

Still, it's hard to know which Perez will show up.

Radam G says:

NO! BJ is more an American dope and a hyped-up hope. Hehehe! Sorry! But boksing is real. And he is not the real deal. Holla!

The Commish says:

Exactly, Storm. If the pre-Mago Perez shows up, any heavyweight in the world is gonna' have his hands full. But, until that bell rings, we are not going to know which Perez to expect.

-Randy G.

Bernie Campbell says:

too much hype1 that philly thing! Chagaev and Povetkin would take care of business hands down! wheres Wach lately?

The Commish says:

I think Wach is now training your favorite heavyweight, Travis Walker, Bernie, and Povetkin and Chagaev have been hired as his main sparring partners. The rumor is, Wladimir Klitschko wants one more fight this year--after taking care of Kubrat Pulev next month--and he's looking to face your guy, the legendary Travis Walker.

Nice to have you back.

-Randy G.

the Roast says:

Same opinion from me. It all depends on Perez. If he is ready to rumble it will be a great fight. If he is just gonna waltz around Jennings will out hustle him.

The Shadow says:

Mofo got a big head yo, looks like that s*** was photoshopped. No joke, I thought that pic with him and Ismaikel was fake.

oubobcat says:

I think Jennings is going to win this fight.

He is skilled, athletic and getting better each time out. His has very quick hands for a heavyweight and his technique keeps getting better. As previously pointed out, he beat a good southpaw his last time out so I don't see Perez's southpaw stance being an issue. Keep in mind as well that Perez's last two fights were brutal and he took a lot of punches. Even if his mind is right from the Mago fight something had to be taken out of Perez given how brutal both his last two fights were.

I believe that at this moment Jennings is the best American heavyweight on the scene. He is further along and more experienced against better opposition than any US heavyweight. The improvement he has showed each time out recently has been impressive. His last fight for example against his toughest for to date was Jennings' most impressive performance inside the ring. He still is learning and still has upside.

Bernie Campbell says:

Put Jennings in there with a rusty ol a-- Wach, and the boy wouldnt know difference between North and South!

deepwater2 says:

I said I wasn't going to pick a boxer in this one but I changed my mind. Going with Perez. I think he is a better boxer and has more tricks in his bag. Jennings is fundamentally sound but I give Perez the edge in most categories. I expect a great fight and will be going with Irish Perez.
This is going to be a great Saturday night!

Bernie Campbell says:

Enuf of that useless Statue of David Perez! Talk about lack of Mobility! Does fres oquendo have anything booked! Comn USA cant you guys dig anything out of the crevises?

The Commish says:

Put Jennings in there with a rusty ol a-- Wach, and the boy wouldnt know difference between North and South!



This is why we love ya' Bernie.

-Randy G.

The Shadow says:

Enuf of that useless Statue of David Perez! Talk about lack of Mobility! Does fres oquendo have anything booked! Comn USA cant you guys dig anything out of the crevises?


Fres just fought, Friscoe!

stormcentre says:

Looks like Perez was not on his "A" game and has been enjoying that Irish pub and craic lifestyle.

I would love to see him seriously get in shape for these fights.

brownsugar says:

I think Jennings is going to win this fight.

He is skilled, athletiamateurtting better each time out. His has very quick hands for a heavyweight and his technique keeps getting better. As previously pointed out, he beat a good southpaw his last time out so I don't see Perez's southpaw stance being an issue. Keep in mind as well that Perez's last two fights were brutal and he took a lot of punches. Even if his mind is right from the Mago fight something had to be taken out of Perez given how brutal both his last two fights were.

I believe that at this moment Jennings is the best American heavyweight on the scene. He is further along and more experienced against better opposition than any US heavyweight. The improvement he has showed each time out recently has been impressive. His last fight for example against his toughest for to date was Jennings' most impressive performance inside the ring. He still is learning and still has upside.


Nice call Oubobcat... Personally I was paralyzed with indecision. But it was interesting watching the drama unfold...although a bit dull due to the lack of consistent, effective offense from either fighter.

Jennings is the Chris Algieri of American heavies, he's better than those late starting, amateurless converted football players... But substitutes true boxing ability with a high degree of athleticism to supliment his lack of experience.

These "self-made" boxers only limitations may just be their own level of comittment and determination. But I think Jennings reaches the end of the line when he faces the winner of Wilder vs Stiverne. Although either scenario is better than facing Klitschko.

I think Wilder knocks him cold and Stiverne is too sharp to lose more than a couple of rounds.
Although neither of those fights should be as ugly as his brawl with the fat Cuban.

Skibbz says:

Isn't Jennings a part time pugilist with a 9-5? Perez may not have had the engine but he will meet someone who does and he will falter. He lost the first 3 rounds against a lump of a former Cuban amateur, and then allowed the lump to steal more rounds later on in the fight. If it wasn't for the point deduction, the lump would have gotten himself a draw.. And the lump's not even mentally stable!

Jenning's won't be helping the HW division, or the American HW's. If anything he may offer some hope to up and comers who see him and think "Hey if this guy is running a 9-5 and beating guys in the Garden then what's stopping me?"

brownsugar says:

Isn't Jennings a part time pugilist with a 9-5? Perez may not have had the engine but he will meet someone who does and he will falter. He lost the first 3 rounds against a lump of a former Cuban amateur, and then allowed the lump to steal more rounds later on in the fight. If it wasn't for the point deduction, the lump would have gotten himself a draw.. And the lump's not even mentally stable!

Jenning's won't be helping the HW division, or the American HW's. If anything he may offer some hope to up and comers who see him and think "Hey if this guy is running a 9-5 and beating guys in the Garden then what's stopping me?"


He work the federal reserve Skibbz.......which is a good job that a lot of blue and white collar wage earners would like to have.

Its smart that he hasn't let the job go.
He should at least keep till after his heavyweight title shot.
He may need it .

oubobcat says:

Isn't Jennings a part time pugilist with a 9-5? Perez may not have had the engine but he will meet someone who does and he will falter. He lost the first 3 rounds against a lump of a former Cuban amateur, and then allowed the lump to steal more rounds later on in the fight. If it wasn't for the point deduction, the lump would have gotten himself a draw.. And the lump's not even mentally stable!

Jenning's won't be helping the HW division, or the American HW's. If anything he may offer some hope to up and comers who see him and think "Hey if this guy is running a 9-5 and beating guys in the Garden then what's stopping me?"


He does have a job but I would not call him a part time fighter at all. He is very dedicated to the sport and has made great strides since entering this profession. You don't make the strides he has made without being 100% committed to the sport.

Jennings had a bad night, make no mistake about it. He still got the win though. He is athletic and does have talent. In this fight against Perez, he seemed to be doing more thinking than fighting. In the past, he seemed more fluid but here he seemed more mechanical. I am not sure if it was the big spotlight, Perez's style or something else.

I think Jennings could become a very good heavyweight. Remember, he has only been boxing for five years. I am not talking about professional experience either but total experience. There is still plenty of room to grow and improve.

Jennings is sitting at a shot at the winner of Wilder-Stiverne. If I managed Jennings, I do not sit out now and wait for that fight. It could be up to a year before that happens if not longer. He must stay active. I go back to the fighting for five years. He is not going to improve and get better by sitting out and waiting now to fight for the WBC belt.

His people also better not sit and wait for an HBO date. Jennings needs to just get back in the ring HBO or no HBO, tv or no tv. I understand its a risk but I think it could be career damaging to send him in a fight with Wilder or Stiverne after a year or so layoff with no opportunity to improve his skills inside the boxing ring in real fights.

I like Jennings potential. Whether or not he can live up to it, only time will tell.

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