Sunday, March 26, 2023  |



Bryant Jennings, seemingly confident, dismisses the naysayers


NEW YORK – Bryant Jennings has no use for all the doubters.

That includes reporters who constantly remind him that he’ll be a profound underdog when he steps into the ring with heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko on Saturday at Madison Square Garden on HBO.

And it includes all the nasty commenters who relish the opportunity to tear people down at the end of internet stories every chance they get.

Jennings was reminded at a media workout Wednesday that so many challengers have tried and failed in bids to upset Klitschko but interrupted before the reporter could finish his thought.

“So many guys have tried everything,” said Jennings, sitting on the edge of a training ring. “So many guys have had problems. And so many never gave up. The ones who push through it all get to the top. Every champion was once a contender.

“I’m at that level now. Now I have to exceed that level and get to the top.”

Jennings was then asked how he would get inside Klitschko’s long arms.

“How is he going to get inside mind?” he said. “You know what I’m saying? Just because someone has been dominant doesn’t mean I can’t be dominant too. So we’ll see.”

You get it.

Most of us can see the monumental challenge Jennings faces. Klitschko (63-3, 53 knockouts) has barely lost a round over the past decade. He has 17 consecutive successful title defenses, only two shy of Larry Holmes for No. 2 on the all-time heavyweight list.

If any fighter is unbeatable, it’s Klitschko.

Jennings (19-0, 10 KOs) is a rooking compared to the big Ukrainian. He turned pro in 2010 and acknowledged Wednesday that he’s still developing. And he struggled to defeat Mike Perez by a split decision in his last fight, which he attributed to the Cuban’s difficult style.

That’s why almost everyone who is anyone believes Klitschko will win on Saturday night.

And Jennings says he couldn’t care less ÔǪ even if his words seem to suggest the doubters get under his skin, particularly those commenters. Jennings was asked whether he thinks much about how a victory over Klitschko would change his life.

“Yeah, I think about it,” he said. “ÔǪ When it happens, I want to hear from every one of the doubters. People doubt me for the simple fact they don’t believe in greatness, they don’t believe in history being made period. They’re not a fan of mine, they’re not even a fan of Klitschko. They’re fans of hate.

“Who I do it for is my team, my real supporters. Other than that no one really matters to me.”

Gary Shaw, Jennings’ promoter, seems to have a reasonable perspective on the challenge his fighter faces.

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” he said. “I’m also nervous about the fight. Jennings is the most athletic boxer Klitschko will have faced in his career. If Bryant wins, I believe that will be the difference. You’re 100 percent right, though. It’s a huge step, not a big step [from Perez to Klitschko].

“Look how things are evolving. If you don’t take the opportunity, you may never get it again. Then he’ll go to the WBC and try to unify against someone else. Then you site on the side. And this is life-changing money for [Jennings]. It’s really big.

“I’m hoping the fight goes 12 rounds. Well, actually, I’m hoping Bryant lands an uppercut in close and lightning strikes like [Buster] Douglas and [Mike] Tyson. I know one thing: My fighter trained hard. He’s coming in prepared. Whether his game plan works, we’ll see Saturday.”

Shaw and Fred Jenkins, Jennings’ trainer, believe the referee – Mike Griffin from Canada – could play a pivotal role.

One knock against Klitschko is that he has been allowed to hold and lean on his opponents far too much. Jenkins went so far as to say that nobody has been able to touch Klitschko not so much because of his ability but because “Klitschko because he grabs and holds them the whole fight.”

“After six or seven times, a point should be deducted,” he said. “I watched him do 244 fouls in one fight (against Alexander Povetkin) and the ref only took one point. That’s not boxing, that’s just fouling. If we would be allowed all those fouls, we’d win easy.”

Said Shaw: “The ref will have a lot to do with the winner of this fight. If he’s allowed to hold and lean – although the crowd will boo it, I know – Klitschko will win and it’ll be a lousy fight, which would be bad for TV and the fans.

“The question is: Will the referee enforce the rules or will it just be another grab and hold fight?”

Jennings didn’t want to go there. He obviously feels, or at least says, that he can overcome anything.

He pulled himself out of abject poverty in Philadelphia. He didn’t step foot into a boxing ring until 2009 yet, only six years later, is fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world.

It’s no wonder that to him anything is possible.

“It’s been a very tough road,” said Jennings, 30. “I’ve seen it all, I’ve been through it all. ÔǪ I’ve grown so fast in so little time. And I’m thankful that I was able to get out of a situation where you don’t make it out.

“I made it out. And I continue to try to go as far away from the poverty ÔǪ I was raised up in.”

The biggest step comes Saturday.