PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                         March 23, 2012


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North Philly heavyweight Bryant Jennings leaps into the thick of big-time heavyweight boxing Saturday night when he steps into the ring with former WBO champion Sergei Liakhovich, in Brooklyn, NY.

For those of us who have watched Jennings, a boxing late-bloomer from Fred Jenkins' ABC Rec Center at 26th & Master, we had a feeling he might make his way to the next level in the division. However, while we were busy enjoying the formative first phase of his boxing career, Jennings was busy preparing for a big opportunity to come along that would provide his surprise entry into the upper echelon. So he was way ahead of us. 

A version of such an opportunity arose in January when the 11-0 Jennings threw his hat into the ring for the withering first NBC Sports Network's "Fight Night" TV broadcast that was suddenly without a main event. Jennings was given a chance to take that spot, but not against the main-eventer still ready to fight. At that time, no match could be made between Jennings and Sergei Liakhovich, who had been left at the altar by Eddie Chambers. However, after Jennings defeated then undefeated Maurice Byarm in the new feature bout, opportunity came knocking again. 

So Jennings will get a crack at the former champ on Saturday night, at the Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn, NY. More importantly, the bout will be broadcast live on national television by the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN).

Some think that the uber-confident Jennings, just 12-0 with 5 KOs, is getting a little ahead of himself with his willingness to face seasoned Sergei, 25-4 with 16 KOs. Despite having more than twice as many pro bouts as Jennings, Liakhovich's amateur background alone (145-15) is enough to make a Jennings fan nervous. But fights are not always determined by the pedigrees brought into the ring.

The fight should be no breeze for Jennings. He had to fight ten full rounds with his foot on the gas to get by the talented Byarm. You have to figure that Liakhovich will bring even more to the table. But I like Bryant's chances on Saturday.

There is something about the situation that feels right for the 27 year old boxer. His eye is on the horizon, but he is not the type to look past anything lying in the road along the way. So he will be ready for Liakhovich. He trains like a madman at the ABC Rec, with Fred Jenkins, the youngest old-timer in Philly boxing, watching him like a hawk.

Jenkins has been there before. He's developed many fine fighters and knows his stuff, and he likes his fighter's chances against Liakhovich.

"They say he's been there, but in the last four years he's had four fights.  And he's lost two of them," said Jenkins about Liakhovich.  "You've got an old race horse going against a young race horse.  So who you betting on?"

The truth is that old race horse Liakhovich has seen better days. He lost his last fight by stoppage to Robert Helenius, after beating him most of the way, and has the feel of a faded fighter. However, the  thing about Sergei is that he never quite lived up to the expectations he set with his title-winning victory of Lamon Brewster. He looked like a promising fighter that night, almost six years ago, but has gone just 2-3 since. Either he wasn't as good as we thought or he's still got a surprise left to pull. Snuffing out Jennings would be the perfect comeback fight for him.

Jennings leap-frogged his career by few years with the Byarm / NBCSN fight. Were it not for that night, he'd still be fighting 8-rounders on local undercards. But because he believed in himself, initiated his own opportunity, and then made good on his promise, he finds himself on the brink of something big.

He has been given another chance to prove himself, and that is Bryant Jennings' primary line of work. He still has much to learn and experience in the boxing ring, but this is a guy who has the courage to find out if he has what it takes to attain his dreams.

"It's a pretty good step up for me, and I know it's not going to be easy," Jennings said.  "But I got to move forward.  Everything is going to get tougher now.  I know that's the way it has to be. Sometimes you have to test yourself." 

Like the rest of us, Bryant Jennings wants to find out if he's got what it takes. I guess we'll find out together. If he fails on Saturday, there will be no crying about missed opportunities. Jennings is driving this car, and hopefully Liakhovich is in for a bumpy ride.




John DiSanto - North Philly - March 23, 2012