PhiladelphiaÔÇöBryant Jennings underwent another dress rehearsal for the world’s heavyweight championship Saturday night against a journeyman with a glossy record in Bowie Tupou.
Jennings did what he was supposed to do, scoring a TKO over the rugged Tongan at 1:37 of the fifth round on NBC’s Fight Night at Temple’s Pearson-McGonigle Hall. The victory drove Jennings’ record to 16-0 (8 knockouts), while Tupou fell to 22-3 (16 KOs).
Jennings’ pulverizing right uppercut was the statement punch, cleaving Tupou’s high guard and down he went. Referee Blair Talmadge reached eight, and when Tupou tried to stand he quickly waved it over.
Jennings yearns for the opportunity for something bigger, something that will lead him to a fight in Germany one day against world heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko. Ironically, Jennings would like to graduate to the glitzy primetime spotlight of the very event he was going up against Saturday night — the blockbuster Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez IV in Las Vegas.
While the boxing world’s focus was on Pacquiao-Marquez, knockouts like the one Jennings produced against Tupou will certainly cause more eyes to shift toward him.
In the third round, however, Jennings received a major break when Tupou connected with an overhand right that put Jennings on the canvas. Talmadge incorrectly called it a slip, though Jennings seemed stunned and got up gingerly.
“He was strong, [Tupou] did hit me and it made me fall, but I was backpedaling,” Jennings said. “He was strong, but I felt something was coming. I had to use my speed.”
Jennings grew up not far from Temple’s Pearson-McGonigle Hall. The home he was raised in is now a hollow concrete shell, much like his original dream of being a professional football player, replaced by visions of heavyweight glory.
It’s going to be a process.
And despite fighting in his hometown, not many showed up to support Jennings, who is considered by many the best American heavyweight today.
He was a victim of bad timing — not only was the fight wedged up Pacquiao-Marquez IV, it was outdrawn by the crowd next door at the Liacouras Center for a Christian rock concert.
Word should spread if Jennings keeps delivering knockouts like that.
In the main undercard fight, Philly lightweight Eric “Outlaw” Hunter put on a dominating display in winning a unanimous 10-round decision over Texan Jerry Belmontes, 17-1 (5 KOs), by scores of 99-91, 97-92 and 99-90.
It was a nice victory for Hunter, 17-2 (9 KOs), who in 2004 was considered one of the best amateur prospects in the country. Promotional problems and a year off stunted his professional progress, but the Belmontes victory may thrust Hunter on the periphery of the lightweight landscape.
“Hand speed and power, that’s what Eric has, and no one else has that kind of combination in boxing other than Gary Russell,” said Naazim Richardson, Hunter’s trainer. “Outlaw just has that Philly in him. We just have to find a way to use it at the right time, not shakin’ his butt with his hands down.”