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Bryant Jennings on Klitschko fight: ‘This is my opportunity to shock the world’

Bryant Jennings (L) lands with a left hook against Mike Perez on July 26, 2014. Photo by Naoki Fukuda.

Bryant Jennings (L) lands with a left hook against Mike Perez on July 26, 2014. Photo by Naoki Fukuda.

PHILADELPHIA ÔÇö Bryant Jennings had been waiting, and waiting, and waiting. The Philadelphia heavyweight contender was salivating for months over the chance to meet the winner of the Bermane Stiverne-Deontay Wilder WBC title fight.

That chance never came in 2014. Jennings kept getting pushed aside, as WBC heavyweight champ Stiverne and Wilder jostled for negotiating leverage (Stiverne-Wilder will take place Jan. 17 on Showtime at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas).

But it looks like patience has worked for Jennings (19-0, 10 knockouts), because he is getting something betterÔÇöa title shot at world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (63-3, 53 KOs) on April 25 at Barclays center in Brooklyn. The matchup will be shown on HBO to boot.

It will mark the first time the 38-year-old Klitschko will be fighting in the U.S. in seven years, since he beat Sultan Ibragimov on February 23, 2008, at Madison Square Garden.

The deal was first broached to Jennings by his promoter, Gary Shaw, back in October. Jennings said it took all of a mini-second to say yes. He’ll be receiving his largest payday, a seven-figure sum to fight the reigning RING, IBF, WBA and WBO titleholder.

“Fighting Klitschko was brought up to me when Klitschko’s people came to Gary,” Jennings said. “This was important to me that I immediately took this.”

The 30-year-old Jennings, who has already signed the contract, knows what he’s up against. He knows the naysayers and so-called pundits won’t give him a chance against Klitschko, who is on a 21-fight, 10-year winning streak. His last loss came against Lamont Brewster in a stunning fifth-round TKO in Las Vegas on April 10, 2004.

Jennings, THE RING’s No. 5-rated heavyweight who’s been a pro for four years, is aware the talk may be that he’s not ready yet for Klitschko, who’s 6-foot-6, 243 pounds to Jennings’ 6-3, 227.

“Those people don’t know what they’re talking about,” Jennings said. “I really don’t see how someone can be at a point in their career when they’re not ready for something like this, because you have to be ready at all times for an opportunity like this. It’s why you train hard and live the life you lead as a contender. Then what the f— are you doing it for?

“I’m aware of all the outcomes. I’m aware that I’ll be the underdog. I know he’s the world champion, and he has power, and he hasn’t lost in years. That stuff doesn’t scare me. This is my opportunity to shock the world, and that’s what I’d like to do, shock the world. I believe my athleticism will play a part in the fight. This is what I’ve been for since I began fighting.”

Jennings said he would leave Philadelphia to train, but that he has already begun. He’s going to increase his training regimen after January 1.

“I’m already working on a fight plan and training,” Jennings said. “I know I’ll obviously have to get by Klitschko’s jab, and I know he don’t fight well going backwards. I have to push my will on him. I also think he still has conditioning issues. I don’t think he fights well in the later rounds. It’s why he leans and tries to wear his guys down. He hasn’t met a fighter in years that can withstand all of the stuff that he’s doing, someone who is as strong as he is, and someone who is as strong in the beginning of a fight as they are at the end of a fight.

“The bottom line is that chin. Once that chin goes, he’s going to fall all apart.”

Jennings and Klitchko will be making Barclays Center history as the first heavyweight title fight there. Having the fight so close to his hometown of Philadelphia is a huge plus, Jennings feels, because of the added motivation of fighting before a good fanbase.

“This also helps me in a big way because I won’t have to wait to get back home to celebrate,” Jennings said. “There’s going to be a lot of people there to support me. I would fight Klitschko anywhere, but HBO wants to bring Klitschko back to America and fight in front of an American crowd, which he hasn’t done in a while. He expects to be in line for the WBC title against Stiverne or Wilder. But I’m going to stop that from happening.”