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 Story & Photos by John DiSanto


Many fighters talk confidently about their careers, their upcoming fights and their abilities.  But few sell it like rising heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings, 18-0, 10 KOs.  The Philadelphianís confidence doesnít just spit from the tip of his tongue, it is thoroughly steeped all the way down to the bones of his 225 pound body.  He is as self-assured as any fighter Iíve ever seen. 

Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, Jennings takes on Mike Perez, 20-0-1, 12 KOs, a promising Cuban who now calls Cork, Ireland home.  The fight is a 12-rounder to determine the #1 contender for the WBC heavyweight title. 

Itís the biggest fight of Jenningsí career thus far.  Then again, with the whirlwind rise of ďBY BYĒ Jennings, each of his past fights has been described the very same way because the stakes in each of those dates keeps getting higher.  If Jennings wins, weíll be saying it next time too because that will be the night he fights for the world heavyweight title.  But letís not get ahead of ourselves.  First up is Mike Perez. 

Talk to me about Mike Perez. 

  ďHeís just another opponent.  I just plan to be in the best of shape and come with my A-game.Ē 

But Perez is undefeated and is highly regarded.

  ďHeís undefeated?  (Laughs)  There are some things even an undefeated person has that can be defeated.  Your lack of confidence.  Your lack of will.  Plus he has a draw.  I donít believe in calling fighters with a draw undefeated, especially when it was questionable.  But that part doesnít matter.  Heís just another person in the ring.  Whether itís someone with a losing record or a winning record, I look at that person the same way.  They are trying to take my zero away from me.Ē 

Does his style remind you of anyone youíve faced so far? 

  ďIf I had to compare him to any one of my opponents, I would compare him to Fedosov.  Heís short, very compact, a counter puncher.  You know, Fedosov couldnít really move, and neither can Mike.Ē 


Is the plan to go for a knockout and make that type of a statement? 

ďA win is a win.  In this sport, a win is always a win.  Either way the win comes, itís still a win.  A win is spelled with a ďWĒ, loss is spelled with an ďLĒ.  My Wís is more than my Lís.  I love Wís.  Iíll find a way to W.Ē

Does this fight feel any different, given the stakes involved? 

  ďItís a big one.  Itís a title eliminator, but itís not different at all.Ē

How do you feel about fighting in the big room at Madison Square
  ďI donít normally get excited about where Iím fighting.  The ring is the ring.  You could put it in the back yard.  You could put it in the middle of a carnival.  The ring is the ring.Ē 

A win in this fight earns you a shot for the WBC title against the winner of Stiverne and Wilder.  How does that feel? 

Iíll just be closer to my goal.  Itís not going to mean anything else.  Iíll just he closer to my goal.  Thereís still one more to focus on after that.  My next step is winning this fight and focusing closer on that goal.  Wladimir might say, ĎI want to fight an American, youíre up nextí.  I donít know how long Iím going to have to wait.  If it donít come fast, then I have to be patient.  Thatís one thing you have to learn.  You have to be patient.Ē 

This fight with Perez was originally scheduled for May.  Did the postponement cause you any problems? 

  ďI didnít really dwell on it.  Iím still alive; Iím still here, and the cancellation didnít come at my expense.  In other words, I wasnít the one that was hurt.  So thatís pressure I didnít have to deal with.  Thatís life, learn to deal with it.  I got over it real fast.Ē

So for the first time in your career you went away for training camp? 

  ďI wanted to go away to Vegas to get on a different plateau of focus, and thatís the reason.  Itís real tough training at home.  Real tough.  People know where I live.  People know my numbers.  People know where to find me.  And itís kind of aggravating when youíre so focused.Ē

Focus seems to be a big part of your preparation. 

  ďI donít ever look beyond whatís in front of me.  I definitely map it out, but I donít let whatís way ahead, get me too distracted.  Do I allow myself to look ahead?  I have it in the back of my mind, but I know the only way to get ahead is to focus on whatís in front of you.  And thatís all I do. 

Youíve had the dream of fighting for the championship for a long time, but now youíre on the brink of actually doing it.  Where do you think you rank among the other heavyweights today? 

ďIím all ready for the next level.  I would think Iím #2, behind Wladimir Klitschko, and I only say Klitschko because Klitschko is Klitschko.  He has a legacy in this generation, in this era.  Other than that, a lot of them guys arenít active either.  A lot of them guys arenít complete either.  A lot of them guys are just not.  Theyíre just not.  They just got a lot of talk.Ē

How are you different from the rest of the pack?

  ďMost peopleís handlers are bigger than their fighters.  So nowadays, these fighters donít know how to be superstars.  Handlers, promoters, managers, they create a superstar within a regular person.  But that person donít really believe heís a superstar, because their handlers are bigger than them.  They are like puppets.  They are on strings.  You know?  You cut one of those strings, they go limp on you.  Iím the type of person, I like to express who I am.  Like I canít have Gary Shaw (his promoter) say who I am.  I speak for myself.  I make sure I do it myself and make sure the people believe me before they believe somebody else that says something about me.Ē

Youíre clearly your own man.  How did you not become like the rest of them? 

  ďAs I was learning, I was allowed to express myself and find out where I am without somebody telling me, without somebody encouraging me.  Itís just like swimming.  If you always have someone holding you up, saying Ďkick your feet, kick your feetí, then itís a different story when youíre out there by yourself.  In the gym, I have my trainer (Fred Jenkins) giving me instructions.  He can take those instructions with me to the ring, but not in the ring.  Once I stand up and that bell rings, itís a whole different story.  Iím on my own now.  Only after every three minutes, you get that one minute to go back and get that pep talk from your trainer.  But if I practice giving my own self that pep talk, then everything he says to me is extra.  That may give me an extra boost sometimes, but I donít really need it because Iíve already practiced being that fighter.  Iím the one getting in the ring.Ē 

What do you look for from your corner during a fight? 

  ďYou go back to the corner for a pep talk.  ĎYou can do this, you can do this.í  Donít ever tell me I can do this, because I know I can do it.  Iím here.  Iím sitting on this stool right now.  I know I can do it.  Just give me instructions and thatís all I need.  I know exactly where Iím at.  Iím a very hard-headed individual.  For me growing up, being hard-headed was one of the best things I could have ever been.  Why?  Because I canít be manipulated.  Itís hard for me to be misled because Iím hard-headed, because I think I know it all.  I knew a lot.  I didnít know it all, but I knew a lot.  Iím so glad I took all those ass-whippings from my Mom, before I came out and took a huge ass-whipping from the world.  I didnít listen to my Mom because I always thought I knew.  Iím an adult now.  Thereís nothing more important to an adult than having your own mind, having your own theories, your own everything.  You control your mind.  You control yourself.Ē 

Do you feel like you are in control of your destiny? 

  ďMy motivation is to get through life.  My priority is to get through life.  Get through what I need to accomplish, my goals.  I get in the ring, I fight.  I do what Iím supposed to do.  I live how Iím supposed to live.  I eat how Iím supposed to eat.  I listen to my trainer.  Iím a very respectful person.  This is the craft that God has set in my life for me to do.  Iím a perfectionist.  So this is what I do to perfect it.  All that other stuff, the titles, the legacy, everything, all that comes later.  I just focus on my craft first.  If I go out and run and I work hard, then I know Iím in great shape.  And I have faith in myself first.  Of course God steers my body, but I have to be prepared.  Most people have faith in God, but donít get out there on that track.  God ainít going to save you that way.  So I just use common sense and make sure I work hard and have faith in God at the same time.  Thatís a very good combination.  I just want to get through life.  Work hard.  Iím very disciplined with life, period.  Boxing is a lifestyle and I donít just live it 6-8 weeks during training camp.  My light switch is never off.Ē 

You are so confident as a fighter and as a person.  When did you know you could do all this? 

  ďIt was in May 2009, in the Golden Glove finals, five months after I started boxing.  Right there was the point of no return.  (My trainer) told me, Ďeven if you donít win this, youíve done enoughí.  And that was it.  Can you imagine somebody walking into your gym and five months later youíre in Salt Lake City, UT, in the National Golden Glove Finals?  That was it.  The light switch was on ever since then.  And Iím just a hard worker at life.  Tunnel vision, shoot for the stars, and Iím focused.Ē 

How do you feel about following in the footsteps of all the great Philly boxing legends? 

  ďBeing from Philly, and being the first American heavyweight in a long time fuels my motivation.  But my motivation is to get through life.  Philly is a tough city.  We have tough fans.  We have tough civilians.  One minute they love you.  One minute they hate you.  Theyíre tough on you.  So you have to be near perfect in order to please the Philly fans.  So that just makes you work harder, knowing that one mess-up can bring a lot of criticism.  Iím just trying to get everybody on one accord on something.  If nobody else is the type of person that can make that happen, then Iím the perfect person to do it.  Just making sure everybodyís on one accord.  No hate.  Show love.  Support your own and letís build this legacy.Ē 

Can we expect an impressive win against Perez? 

ďMost of the time, I donít look to impress.  I just happen to be impressive.  Iím a fighter, and Iím a puncher, and Iím a mover, and Iím a defender.  Thatís just what it is.  Iím fighting for me, my son, my family, the people that surround me, and my loved ones.Ē




John DiSanto - North Philly - July 21, 2014