Bryant Jennings signs with Top Rank, sees ‘wide open’ division
You can add another name to the resurgent heavyweight division.
Bryant Jennings hasn’t competed since a December 2015 stoppage defeat to Luis Ortiz, but the Philadelphian’s return is in the works.
The fighter’s former promoter, Gary Shaw, is no longer doing just that — promoting — and Jennings had two choices: Buy out the contract or ride it out.
He chose patience — “had to ride it out” — before the contract finally expired on May 1. Now a free agent, Jennings met with Top Rank CEO Bob Arum in New York before the Terence Crawford-Felix Diaz fight in May and they hammered out a deal this month. The signing was officially announced this week, and Top Rank adds another recognizable name to its stable with plenty of ESPN dates to fill.
“I’m the best-conditioned heavyweight in boxing and my ultimate goal is to win a world title for Bob Arum at Top Rank. He deserves it,” said Jennings. “And being with Top Rank means I will get an opportunity to fight for a world title. I have the strength, desire, experience and the smartness in the ring to get that world title. This is such an opportunity for me being with Top Rank.”
It’s a natural move for both parties. Top Rank co-promotes WBO heavyweight titleholder Joseph Parker, and also promotes Andy Ruiz, who gave the New Zealand native all he could handle in December.
Jennings is strong and athletic, and although he’s coming off a pair of losses (the only two of his career), they came against RING top 5-rated heavyweights in Wladimir Klitschko and Ortiz (who wasn’t rated at the time but came in at No. 5 after beating Jennings). Jennings actually gave future Hall of Famer Klitschko some issues with his athleticism and speed on his way to a decision defeat, and then accepted another challenging fight immediately after.
“The heavyweight division is wide open now and it’s a great opportunity for Bryant to return to boxing after twice battling for the heavyweight title,” said Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum. “In this present landscape, a busy heavyweight contender with a few quality wins can find himself in title picture very easily.”
The 32-year-old splits his time between Boca Raton, Florida, and Philadelphia, and while he hasn’t competed under the bright lights, he’s been hard at work. Jennings was in camp with Alexander Povetkin ahead of the eventually scrapped fight against Bermane Stiverne (scheduled for December 2016). “By-By” also helped Shannon Briggs prepare for Fres Oquendo before that fight was canceled Monday.
Jennings remains in great shape — not just physically, but mentally.
“Everybody be forgetting about life, so I’ve been living,” Jennings, who took time to educate himself on finances following the two biggest purses of his career, told RingTV.com last month.”They just want you to be in the ring all damn day and be stupid. … It’s definitely nice to take advantage of yourself, take some time for yourself to figure some things out. When you’re training all the time you definitely can’t do that.
” … We’re on the same page. Bob’s a straight shooter, he’s going to lay it out there. The track record behind Bob speaks for itself and the consistency and what he done over the years — it just speaks for itself. It’s obvious when you look at the numbers, the numbers are going to tell the truth.”
Arum asked Jennings, “When will you be ready to fight?”
“I said ‘yesterday.’ It’s always been whatever with whoever,” Jennings said. “These dudes are not competitive. I hate when I speak on it and they say, ‘Oh you’re negative.’ I’ll just be quiet.”
Before the losses to Klitschko and Ortiz, Jennings built some buzz with wins on HBO over Artur Szpilka and Mike Perez in 2014. With more than one year off to recharge his batteries, Jennings hopes to mix it up with some of the best in the division soon enough.
“In a perfect world, the plan is to get active, stay active, be consistent and show the world I’m of a different era,” he said. “It’s only been eight years since [I started] boxing anyway. They don’t appreciate realness, they don’t appreciate rarity. They look at everything that’s common.
“The game is wide open.”
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger