PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - April 24, 2018  
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JENNINGS READY TO
PUNCH CLOCK AND DAWEJKO

Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Darryl Cobb Jr. / dcobbjr.com
 

 
   

Bryant Jennings is a confident guy. His entire career, and even his life, seems to be an exercise in discipline and the application of the belief system heís developed over his 33 years on Earth. Jennings is known for his tremendous work ethic, a lifestyle that sends him to the gym religiously, whether he has a fight on the calendar or not. Jennings became a vegetarian in 2014 and went full vegan the following year. This is not a widespread practice by boxers, but Jennings swears by the move and has never looked back. He believes his already exquisite conditioning was enhanced by the new life style.

It seems that Jennings, 22-2, 13 KOs, constantly tests himself and pushes to be stronger, more focused and generally the very best he can be. Others talk the same game, but Jennings clearly lives it. 

When he speaks of his exploits in the gym, on the running course, at the grocery store, away from the bedroom, and in the neighborhood streets, you are never completely clear if heís talking specifically about his career or about his life in general. For Jennings looks at the world as an obstacle course designed to challenge him, both in and out of the boxing ring.

On Saturday night, Jennings meets fellow-Philadelphian Joey Dawejko in a heavyweight 10-rounder at the Liacouras Center, in the unofficial main event on a big card that features a world championship bout (Isaac Dogboe vs. Jesse Magdaleno), and an NABF title contest (Jesse Hart vs. Demond Nicholson) at the top of the show. Everyone in town, however, is buzzing about Jennings-Dawejko.

This is the best Philly vs. Philly boxing contest seen in years, and hopes are high that the actual fight will match not only the on-paper prospects it promises, but also equal the enthusiasm of fans who are rapidly buying tickets. 

This sudden acceptance of the idea of two Philadelphia fighters facing off flies in the face of popular social media talk that states Philadelphians should not pick on our own. Fans usually express a preference for local fighters only taking on out-of-towners. However, feelings appear to be changing now that the fight is a reality.   

The two fighters, different in so many ways, also disagree on the necessity of this bout. Jennings believes that all the risk is his, and feels he has nothing to gain from a win over Dawejko. Joey sees the match as his ticket to the next level, as well as a chance to reveal his full potential. So, Dawejko is all for the Philly vs. Philly clash. Jennings not so much.

From Jenningsí perspective, the fight is particularly fascinating. His professional identity has always been that of the over-achieving new comer, light on experience but big on effort. Through his rise, he delivered again and again with good a attitude and hard work. However, this wasnít enough when he faced Wladimir Klitschko and Luis Oritz in his two biggest fights to date.  

But Jennings came away from his lone defeats whole, understanding that he wasnít supposed to win either time, even though he believed that he would. Not pulling a monster upset can be a natural grain of salt for a person in the aftermath of a setback. However, a loss to Dawejko would earn no such pass.

Joey Dawejko has yet to prove himself to be on the level of a Wladimir Klitschko or Luis Oritz. And so, for the first time in a significant fight, Jennings is the one with the better experience and every physical advantage. Therefore, the pressure is on him to deliver big against Dawejko.

Jennings has subsisted on confidence, and seems to have plenty to spare. However, an assignment like this one will truly test Jennings in ways heís never seen before. In Dawejko, Jennings will be in with a guy that heís supposed to beat, but he may need more than conditioning and confidence to do it.

During his rise, Jennings had the drive to work past his limitations. He grinded out a knockout win over Artur Szpilka and edged Mike Perez using heart. However, the mindset of a rising fighter is different from that of one rebounding from defeat.

Some believe that Dawejko has the natural skill to foil Jennings. That is, if heís in shape to do it. A big ďifĒ according to many, but still, it is the story of this fight. Over-achiever Jennings against under-achiever Dawejko. The result seems clear on paper, but sometimes these things eventually even out.

Still, Jennings has always done everything in his control to prepare for and perform in a fight, and it is unlikely that heíll be any different on Saturday night. The big questions are What Joey Dawejko will he encounter? And is Bryant Jenningsí game more than just conditioning?

Thatís what makes this fight special. We think we know the answer, but in boxing you never really do until the bell rings. 

I spoke to Bryant Jennings while he was in training camp in Florida. 

HOW DIFFERENT IS YOUR TRAINING WHEN YOU ARE PREPARING FOR A FIGHT?
I train just about every day anyway. The only difference to me is the focus, the mindset and pretty much no sex. Even though I start my no sex thing way early, not just for this particular fight, but my mindset in general. 

DO YOU ABSTAIN FROM SEX FOR PHYSICAL OR MENTAL REASONS?
Studies show that there are physical advantages based on the amount of testosterone that your body builds up. So, seven days no sex, pretty much increases your testosterone levels about 43%. 

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS MATCH-UP?
The match-up isÖ (Groans). This fight is dangerous. I look at it as dangerous because it is detrimental to image if I donít deliver. So pretty much, I have everything to lose, while he has everything to gain. This fight pretty much does nothing for me. So, I need to handle my business and do what Iím supposed to do.  Thatís pretty much it. 

IS THERE NOTHING THAT YOU CAN GAIN FROM BEATING DAWEJKO?
This is the heavyweight division. A lot of the heavyweights of today Ė Joshua, Fury, Wilder Ė they are much taller than him. This particular fight here serves no purpose other than the purpose it is supposed to be serving, Philly vs. Philly, and him just trying to put a smudge on my legacy. 

WHAT ARE DAWEJKOíS STRENGTHS?
He has a little slickness to him, but it doesnít last. I can be either fighter - safe fighter, defensive fighter, or offensive fighter, and make it look ugly. Iíve been in all different types of fights, even in a fight with someone as skilled as Mike Perez. He was a southpaw. Iíve been in fights that I would compare with Joey Dawejko, but these fights were 12 round fights. These fights were on big stages. This fight here is the biggest stage that Joey has ever fought on.   

DO YOUR AMATEUR FIGHT & LATER SPARRING WITH HIM MEAN ANYTHING NOW?
No! Listen, I started boxing (in the gym) in January (2009), and had my first fight January 31st. Then I fought Mark Rideout February 24th. Then I fought Joey Dawejko on like April 24th. So I didnít even know what I was doing. I wasnít even competitive at that point. I was just trying to find my way into this new sport.  

AND WHEN YOU SPARRED?
The time that we sparred, I donít think he was in shape. And I donít think my intentions were to put it on him. So we canít really judge. I know he didnít do a damn thing. So thatís about it. 

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM HIM IN THIS FIGHT?
Weíve seen him fight so many times. Itís kind of the same thing, but I didnít fight him so many times. I always make sure I approach it different than what you (normally) see. Iíve seen a lot of my opponents fight and the way I approached it was way different than what I was used to seeing. So thatís how Iím going to go in there. Adjusting, doing what I need to do. Just seeing what I have in front of me. But based on him seeing him fight, I donít expect too much more than what weíve seen. Now thatís not saying that we donít see nothing. We do see things. We see good things and we see bad things. But I donít expect anything more or less than Iíve ever seen in him before. 

DO YOU CONSIDER HIM A PUNCHER?
I donít consider him a puncher, but every heavyweight goes for the punch. Thatís probably where the four draws and four losses came from (on his record). He keeps going to the punch. You have to make sure you fight the fight scientifically. Boxing is a science. So, offense, defense, ring movement, picking your spots, not necessarily going for the punch. I can imagine if I was a person that goes for knockouts, how many more knockouts I would have. I can immediately name five guys off the top of my head that I was probably 25 seconds away from knocking out. Going through the learning process, it just wasnít what I went after. As far as him, being that puncher, everybody has their punch. I donít take that away from him, but I donít give it to him either. It should be an exciting fight. Iím going to come in shape. I hope he comes in shape, in better shape. It is what it is. Iím just punching the clock. 

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT FIGHTING ON THE BIGGEST PHILLY SHOW IN YEARS?
If I let it get to me, it would be added pressure. But I donít feel it right now. Iím composed. I stay composed. I promise you, Iím not thinking about that aspect. Itís something to promote, but that just adds on more pressure. I think it just makes a difference to who Iím fighting, and it makes a difference to the people, but it shouldnít make a difference to me. 

SO ITíS JUST ANOTHER FIGHT TO YOU?
Iím going about this the same way I go about every fight. I fought at Madison Square Garden in front of 17,000 people. I had a lot of the City and a lot of the people there rooting for me, but I didnít even hear it. I blocked it out. Iím in the ring and Iím focusing on the fight. I donít let the crowd control me ever. 

HAS YOUR STYLE OR ABILITIES CHANGED SINCE FIGHTING FOR THE TITLE?
The Klitschko thing brought me more confidence. Not only confidence for me, I had to make everyone else believe that I can do something. Maybe not offensively, because I never had fought a guy over 6í 5Ēbefore. It was kind of difficult for me offensively to be able to believe in doing certain things. 

SO YOU GAINED MOSTLY CONFIDENCE?
I fought Szpilka, Perez, Klitschko, and Ortiz, and that was a hell of a run. All of that back-to-back-to-back.  Iíve gotten better at seeing things more. My defense is still tight, processing certain things. My speed is still there. Everything is maintained. You know, youíre getting older. So things arenít only supposed to be getting better, they are supposed to be wearing a little bit. Youíre getting older, so maintaining is just as good as improving. But as far as boxing ability, the jab, picking your punches, knowing when to let your hands go. Just knowing when to do certain things. It has improved a lot, but I just canít pinpoint exactly where, because itís an overall thing. Itís the experience that I gained. After every experience, you get better. Also being in camps with world class fighters, beating their ass. Itís just all around improvement. 

DO YOU THINK YOUR PERCEIVED AS A BETTER FIGHTER NOW THAT YOUíVE BEEN IN THERE?
What they all misinterpret is my power. Thatís not what they are looking for. So I can understand somebody looking and saying Ďhe still looks a little raw around the edges, he does this sometimes, he makes these type of mistakes, and he doesnít have a lot of knockouts. The only thing he brings to the table is athleticism and conditioningí. But you got to understand that the power is there and a lot of people are surprised with that because on top of the athleticism and conditioning they have to deal with this. 

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A VEGAN?
Since the beginning of the Klitschko camp I became vegan, but way before Szpilka, I was vegetarian.  That last piece of chicken I ate was August of 2013. I stopped eating all meats in August of 2013. Then I let go of my last fish and eggs during the Klitschko camp. 

DO YOU SWEAR BY THE CHANGE?
Yes. It also has its long-term benefits. Itís like anything in the world thatís not good for you. Once you get educated or gain knowledge about something that you shouldnít be doing, it only makes you stupid to go back. Or it makes you weak in a sense that you gave in and now youíre doing something that you said you wouldnít do again.   

IS BEING VEGAN ALSO A FORM OF DISCIPLINE FOR YOU?
Yes, itís discipline. It has mental benefits. Youíre looking at a person that can actually give up three months no sex, even with the amount of women thatís optional to me. I can give up three months, four months, no sex, no masturbating, not eating the foods I was used to eating, waking up making sure that I do whatever I set my schedule to do. Iím the type of person that Iím going to do it. Thatís a different type of mentality. Patience, discipline, and all these other things are some of the things that Iíve accumulated by not eating meat. Just more discipline. 

DOES FIGHTING FOR THE PENNSYLVANIA TITLE MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU?
They added that? Iím not paying no sanctioning fees for that shit! No, no. I never cared about that. I have never brought any of the belts that Iíve acquired Ė USBA or the Pennsylvania State Title Ė out in another fight. No, no, no. I donít like that. I know they are doing that to sell it more, make it more eventful, but it does nothing for me. 

IS IT BECAUSE YOUíVE FOUGHT FOR THE WORLD TITLE ALREADY?
All of that shit is ridiculous and out of this world. Iíve stood on corners that we called our corner for years, and the new owners of the buildings said we canít stand on the corner no more. So whose corner was this? Was it the Cityís corner or was it the homeownerís corner? It was never my corner. Once you get the understanding of that, nothing is ever yours. Even like the heavyweight world championship. Itís yours, but the shit donít mean nothing. Tyson told you that. It donít mean nothing. 

NOTHING?
It carries more money. For instance, Canelo never needed a belt. As long as you have one million people watching you on TV, and letís just say 20,000 people that come to watch you (live). Why would you need a belt at all? Youíre doing what youíre doing, and youíre doing it at this level. I donít want labels. I donít fight for labels. Labels are given to you. You donít fight for it. Iím fighting so I can be the best. People want to tell you youíre the best, but youíre only the best to some people. You (have to) fight for yourself. 

DO YOU STILL WANT TO WIN THE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE?
To be champion of the world still motivates me, because thatís what I started out for. Youíre not going to change your whole strategy three quarters of the way in.   

IF YOU BEAT DAWEJKO, DOES IT MOVE YOU CLOSER TO ANOTHER TITLE SHOT?
I just want to progress in my career, progress what Iím doing. Frankly, this is my business career, my job. This is my bread and butter. I want to be able to progress, learn how to live, which Iím learning.  Creating opportunities for my family. Creating a legacy of discipline, hard work, ambition and drive.  World championships come with more money, but the money ainít going to make me. You think Iím going to cry if, God forbid, anything goes wrong and Joeyís hand gets raised? 

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED MOST FROM BOXING?
You have to remember to keep yourself in this mission. Keep yourself. Donít lose it. I donít lose myself, and I donít want to lose the people I came up with. I donít want to lose nothing. I understand that Iím on a hell of a journey, and Iím learning different things. So you might lose people in that process, but donít ever lose yourself. I donít ever want to lose myself. I know who I am. I know what I want to accomplish, and I know what is accomplishable. Being heavyweight champion of the world is accomplishable. I know I can accomplish that goal. You got to keep your eyes wide open. And donít let it get you because it will, and it will tear you up, and it will tear the people around you up. You wonít have any more relationships and nobody wonít ever like you. Then youíll be living in a world full of fake friends, and friending people you thought youíd never be friends with. You just got to be careful. 

HOW IMPORTANT IS BOXING TO YOU AT THIS POINT IN YOUR LIFE?
These things are just part of my journey, and part of my journey requires for me to do my best. Do what I can do. Do what I practice to do. Create this legacy. Create these footprints. That way, these things can be imprinted in history. Have a legendary status. That way people can pay attention to you and take notes and you can just live forever. 

   
 

 

 
 


John DiSanto - Philadelphia - April 24, 2018
 

 
     
 

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