|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - March 23, 2015
With about one month to go before his April 25th world heavyweight title shot against Wladimir Klitschko, Bryant Jennings, 19-0, 10 KOs, is cloistered away at training camp getting ready for the biggest fight of his life. For Jennings, training is second nature, and is without question one of the hardest workers in the game. However as he recently told me, training too hard may have hurt him in his last start, the fight that earned him a shot at the WBC belt.
Of course Jennings went in a different direction and finds himself on the brink of fighting the man considered to be the true heavyweight champ and the holder of the IBF, WBA, WBO & IBO titles. If Jennings can pull off the upset on April 25th, heíll join Joe Frazier and Tim Witherspoon (and some say Sonny Liston) as the most celebrated big men in Phillyís storied boxing history.
Itís a tall order, but Jennings sounded confident, ready and raring to go when I spoke to him recently by telephone.
You are on the brink of fighting for the heavyweight championship and changing your life forever. What does that feel like?
JENNINGS: ďThatís actually what Iíve been doing these last few months, just mentally preparing myself for this transition. With or without the Klitschko fight, Iíve been mentally preparing myself for these transitions that are about to come. I work hard and work toward them, and I know Iím going to achieve them. So therefore I got to prepare. Because most people, when they get to a point, they donít know what to do. They donít know what to do with the money. They donít know what to do with the fame. They abuse it. They get disrespectful. They get very arrogant. They get ignorant. So Iím just trying to prepare myself and just trying to ease into this transition.Ē
You had a brief amateur career and 19 pro fights in four years. You are about to fight for the world heavyweight title. How did you get here so quickly?
JENNINGS: ďHard work. Persistence. My persistence brought me consistency, and I always showed will. I was always willing to do the unthinkable, the impossible. You know, fight whoever. Stayed very strategic. Itís even a greater thing on my end because Iíve taken a very big grip on my own career, and Iíve been able to steer it the way I wanted it to go. Thatís important right there.Ē
Was it a difficult choice to go after Klitschko instead of waiting for the mandatory WBC shot that you earned in your last fight?
JENNINGS: ďNo, not really. Once the opportunity presented itself, then I immediately went that way. At the time, the Wilder and Stiverne fight wasnít even in the talks really. You know how long they dragged that fight out. By the time theirs was scheduled, mine was scheduled (too). So that just goes to show how much time they took to actually make that fight. So I was good. I felt as though Iíve always came up on the harder side of the road anyway. So Iíd rather take the hard way. Once I take the hard way, all the other stuff will be easier to me.Ē
Do you think Klitschko is a tougher match than Wilder?
JENNINGS: ďNo doubt! Thatís without a question. Iím fighting Wladimir Klitschko! Thatís without a question.Ē
Why is fighting Klitschko the more attractive option?
JENNINGS: ďIf I wanted to be the best, then I knew I had to fight the best. Most people donít even reflect on history. Take a look at some of the greatest heavyweights of all time and realize that these guys werenít that big. So here it is, you have a guy thatís at traditional weight as a heavyweight (Jennings). Has great movement. Has great athletic ability. I have it all. I have the defense. Theyíre not even looking at the attributes that I bring to this fight. Klitschko has fought people who really donít move well, or are really heavy on their feet. Who really have weak defense. I just look at the matchup as I really have to prove this to people. And once I prove it to them, they are really going to be in for a real treat. Because once I prove it to them, then they get to feel how greatness really is. Most people deny greatness. I never deny greatness. I know Iím going off of the question a little bit. I never deny greatness. I think itís a great matchup. You got the small guy against the bigger guy. My athleticism against his athleticism. Itís just the best of the best. I for sure will definitely bring my A-Game, and Iím looking to come out with the win.Ē
Are you happy that you are fighting Klitschko in the USA?
JENNINGS: ďYes. Itís definitely better in the USA. Now I can actually celebrate immediately after the win, instead of actually holding my celebration. (If I beat him in Germany) I may be retaliated against when Iím in a whole Ďnother country (with them) screaming, ďAmerica this and America thatí. Even though I love Germany. I actually have a close friend. Sheís German. Iíve been learning German. I actually love the country. I love all countries. I see culture, not color. I actually love all culture. But itís just great to be home and being able to celebrate.Ē
Does having the fight at Madison Square Garden hold any special significance for you?
JENNINGS: ďIt definitely holds some type of significance because there was a lot of history that was made at Madison Square Garden. And here it is, Iím extending history. And what better place to fight than (such a) historical place. Not only in boxing, but in all sports. Madison Square Garden is just the place to be.Ē
What is the key to winning this fight?
JENNINGS: ďMy key is literally to be aware. To stick to the game plan. To stick to the strategy, whatever the strategy may be. I wonít give it up. Itís also to be active. Itís also to be smart. Be aware, and fight smart.Ē
Klitschko hasnít lost in 10 years. Heís made 17 title defenses. Why will you be different from all the others heís faced during that stretch?
JENNINGS: ďI compare myself to guys that he fought recently and won against. Guys like David Haye, against guys like (Eddie) Chambers. There were slight changes that could have made huge differences in each one of those fights that I plan to capitalize on. When I say plan, that means thatís my plan. I know that everybody has a plan until they get hit. Iím aware of that. Iím very sure of that. But my plan is to capitalize on things where (other) people left holes. People left question marks in his recent fights. So my plan is to capitalize on that.Ē
How do you feel about being a big underdog in the fight?
JENNINGS: ďItís always a good thing to come in as the underdog because it makes you fight harder.Ē
Your last fight (W12 Mike Perez) was extremely close. So close that it almost went the other way. What did you learn from that fight?
JENNINGS: ďI actually learned something (about) preparation for a fight like that. And Iíll actually apply that to every preparation that Iíll be going forth with forever. I think my preparation for that fight was kind of dragged out. I had been out of state training for a long time. So I actually learned something in preparation for Mike Perez that would have definitely changed how I fought in that fight. I believe I over trained a bit.Ē
So what did you learn from that?
JENNINGS: ďWe donít necessarily need to kill ourselves in preparation. We have to find smarter ways, more strategic ways to actually go about it. Because my strength is my strength, my body is my body. I am who I am. Iím a grown man; Iím developed already. So thereís only so much you can actually change. Thereís only so much you can push a fighter to do. Now you just gotta know when to hold, when to fold. You actually got to know your limit, and you actually have to train smart and effectively. All of your energy has to, should be, exerted at the fight, not beforehand.Ē
How did being over trained affect you in the fight?
JENNINGS: ďI believe I did not let me hands go. There was something there that really didnít let me let my hands go as much as I should have. And then you can greatly credit Mike Perez. Slick movement; heís southpaw. You know, most guys are scared of southpaws anyway. It was the southpaw stance plus the slick movement, plus the experience. So there were a lot of things you could put in there (reasons, excuses). Mike Perez is a great fighter. If he was in better shape, he probably would have won. If he had come on his A-Game, because I believe I didnít come with mine. I came with my A-Game in mind. I always have the will to execute the plan. But when your bodyís just not there, itís not there. So I guess thatís the same way he felt. But he neglected his training and it showed. I still pushed forward and I still worked hard and still showed that I wanted to win. And thatís how I won. I won with my heart. I didnít win with skills. I won with my heart because I kept fighting, I kept pushing.Ē
Does it feel like this fight with Klitschko will be your moment, your destiny?
JENNINGS: ďEverything has happened so fast. I literally just live my life as if this is my life and itís normal to me. It may be extravagant; it may be excellent Ė I mean itís excellent to me as well but Ė it may be extravagant to everybody else, but I live it as though itís normal and Iíve always had good discipline in life. So I treat the life Iím living now with the same discipline. Itís actually greater discipline because itís on a greater scale.Ē
Philadelphia has produced Joe Frazier and Tim Witherspoon. Is Bryant Jennings Phillyís next heavyweight champ?
JENNINGS: ďYeah. Yeah. It will actually have some significance. Not to say those guys didnít do it, but itís 2015. Times have changed. Marketing has changed. Business has changed. The world has changed a whole lot. I just think that I can capitalize a lot better, and actually exceed from a marketing standpoint. Those guys, they made history that canít be touched. Iím not trying to out-do them or none of that. Iím just saying that itís a better time now and Iím actually going to show you how to do it in 2015.Ē
Can you feel the support from your city?
JENNINGS: ďYes, we all on this train together.Ē