PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - April 21, 2015                                                              
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Story & file photo by John DiSanto


Bryant “BY BY” Jennings, 19-0, 10 KOs, gets his big chance to become the world heavyweight champion on Saturday night before a packed house at Madison Square Garden and a big national TV audience on HBO.  The Philly-born-fast-tracker has made it to the biggest fight a boxer could ever dream of - after just five years in the pros and brief one-year amateur career prior to that. 

He’s packed much experience into his fledgling ring run, but most believe that he’s still too green and too small to make a serious challenge on Saturday night.  After all, Jennings’ hurdle to the belts is champion Wladimir Klitschko, 65-3, 53 KOs, a man that hasn’t lost in ten years and who has defended his array of titles 17 times during that stretch.  Klitschko has almost as many defenses as Jennings has fights. 

The betting odds against Jennings are as high as 16-1.  However, B-Y appears supremely confident in his chances of bringing the championship back to the City of Brotherly Love. 

“I pay no attention to it,” Jennings said of the slim-to-none chance most give him against Klitschko.  “I’ve pretty much been the underdog in just about all of my fights.  Most people focus on the inexperience part.  Most people focus on the size part.  But everybody has a different story once they enter the ring with me.” 

It is true that Jennings has already stepped into many bouts considered to be way above his level, and yet he has won them all.  You see, Jennings possesses a natural self confidence that guides his every move. 

Jennings decided early in his career to take chances and strive for the top of his chosen profession, regardless of the risks.  When he entered fights without every tool thought to be necessary to win, he believed that he would find the missing pieces within himself when the pressure was on.  And so far, that’s exactly what he has done. 

“Experience plays a part, but not a big part,” Jennings said.  “We’ve seen situations where the inexperienced guy comes out on top, whether it’s in sports, whether it’s in politics, whether it’s in anything.  So, I don’t play that experience game, because everybody who I’ve faced has been more experienced than me.  I first put on the gloves six years ago, and here I am fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world.” 

This is what Bryant Jennings is all about – a positive attitude and a solid dose of self-esteem.  He’s a winner with a mindset that has kept him afloat in some very choppy waters.  He, and a scant few others, myself included, believe that this will be the key to his success against Klitschko.    

“People only look at the size and they only look at the experience,” Jennings said.  “They don’t look at the possibilities.  And all you got to do is respect the possibility that this fight could go either way.” 

That’s Jennings.  When others are talking about shortcomings, Jennings only sees possibilities.  If Jennings can beat Klitschko, it is this attitude that will help him get the job done. 

“I’m very aware of my purpose here, and I’m just thankful,” Jennings said.  “Because just five, six years ago, I had no idea that I would be anywhere near anything like this.  It’s a great experience.  It’s great point in my life.  It’s part of history.” 

With a victory on Saturday night, Jennings would join Joe Frazier and Philadelphia native Tim Witherspoon as one of Philly’s heavyweight champions.  (Some also include Sonny Liston in the list because he trained in Philly during his championship era.)

“How many heavyweights from Philadelphia never really got close, or never even had the chance to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world?  So I’m doing that.  I’ll be one of just a few Philly-born heavyweights to fight for a title and (only) the second Philly-born heavyweight to ever win it, once I become champion on April 25th.” 

Most recently Philadelphian Eddie Chambers challenged Klitschko for the title, but was knocked out in the 12th and final round of their 2010 bout.  Other unsuccessful title challengers from Philly’s past include David Bey, Tyrell Biggs, Jesse Ferguson, Marvis Frazier, Jimmy Young, Gus Dorazio, and Tommy Loughran.  Jennings hopes to join Frazier and Witherspoon in the much more exclusive list of those who actually accomplished the feat. 

Jennings knows that he will be in deep against Klitschko, a man who seems to have perfected his boxing style.  That style hasn’t made the champ a fan-favorite, but he is universally respected as the best heavyweight of the era, and the true champion of the world. 

“One punch from a heavyweight (like Klitschko) pretty much has the ability to put a man down,” Jennings said.  “So, I’m aware of that.  Plus, I’m aware of the specimen that is Wladimir.  He’s a very dedicated individual.  He’s always been.  He appears to live the clean life.  He’s 100% athlete.  So there’s a lot of things that I’ll be taking on, come April 25th, but there are things that I bring to the table as well.” 

Jennings cites Klitschko’s left jab as the champ’s best weapon, and is prepared for the land-and-grab tactics that have, over the past decade, helped him keep his suspect chin safely out of range. 

“He does a lot of things great,” Jennings said.  “His weakness (is) his chin, but he’s great at protecting that.  I have 100% confidence.  I had a great training camp and practiced and prepared ways to get inside, or get around his jab.” 

Seventeen others have tried to topple Klitschko, but none of his recent challengers have managed to do it. 

“I understand that it’s going to be a tough task, but that’s what I signed up for,” Jennings said.  “I’m all for it.” 

On paper, this is a fight that Klitschko should win.  However, things don’t always go the way they have been drawn on paper.  Heavyweight history is loaded with upsets far bigger than this one would be, and Bryant Jennings is determined to show himself and everyone else that he is up to the task. 

Although it is true that Jennings still has some answers to provide regarding exactly how good he truly is, it is also true that he needs an opportunity like this to present his argument to the boxing world. 

Jennings’ work rate will likely be the key.  If he can use his superb conditioning and tireless work ethic throughout the bout to set a pace beyond Klitschko’s comfort zone, he will eventually find the champion’s chin.  Jennings must outwork Klitschko and all the while continue to believe in himself and his chances to succeed. 

“Be patient and be smart,” Jennings said of his plan for the fight.  “And relentless effort.” 

This fight is not about who is better on paper.  This one will come down to who works harder in the ring.  Against Klitschko, that’s a tall order for any fighter.  But if anyone can do it, Bryant Jennings can. 

Klitschko has perfected the ability to protect himself from engaging in a fight.  Bryant Jennings’ job will be to give him that fight. 

Klitschko’s chin has let him down in the past, and he now fights in a manner that minimizes all risk of anyone testing his ability to take a punch.  Jennings must outwork him, make him uncomfortable, stand up to Klitschko’s reputation, and hang in there until he finds the champion’s chin. 

Every fighter needs the perfect opportunity to show the world what he’s capable of doing.  This is exactly that opportunity for Jennings.  Some may find it far-fetched, but I believe that in the end, Jennings will show us what he is made of and become the heavyweight champion of the world.    

“That’s how it’s going to go,” Jennings said.  “It’s going to be a wonderful night.” 

Bryant Jennings truly believes in himself, and I believe in Bryant Jennings. 




John DiSanto - Philadelphia - April 21, 2015