PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - January 18, 2019  
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Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Mikey Williams / Top Rank


In a heavyweight shocker, Montreal-based Colombian Oscar Rivas stormed out of his corner in the twelfth and final round to stop North Philly's Bryant Jennings, in the main event at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY. Jennings looked sluggish throughout the bout, but appeared to be in control of the fight - until that fateful final round.

In the last round, Rivas caught Jennings along the ropes with a combination that put the third-ranked contender (WBO) on the floor. He took much of referee Gary Rosato's count on one knee, looking alert but shaken. Jennings beat the count, but Rivas jumped right back on and fired away. Rivas rocked Jennings, over and over, with a few of the punches snapping Bryant's head back far beyond the top strand of rope.

Rivas kept punching, and with Jennings groggy and not retaliating, Rosato stepped in to end the fight. The time of the finish was 54 seconds into round twelve. With the win, Rivas, 26-0, 19 KOs, remained undefeated, seized Jennings' NABO and IBF Intercontinental belts, and shook up the heavyweight division a bit.

Leading up to the end, the bout was tactical and unexciting. Rivas was the aggressor, but Jennings stayed safe by using his long jab. I had the Philadelphian in the lead after eleven rounds, but it was an uninspiring performance. Jennings appeared only to be going through the motions, unaware, or uncaring, of the stakes. Rivas, on the other hand, kept coming, not quite as skilled, but far pluckier and motivated than Jennings.

For this, two of the three judges has Rivas in the lead on the scorecards, after eleven rounds. Tom Schreck had the score 105-104 for Rivas. Eric Marlinski also favored Rivas 106-103. John McKaie, had Jennings ahead 106-103. However, on this night, the scores weren't necessary.

Jennings, now 24-3, 14 KOs, must have left the Turning Stone Casino feeling the victim of a "Verona Curse". Two of his three losses - and the only two bouts he's lost by knockout - occurred in the same ring, at the same casino, in the same city. A bad luck streak to be certain. 

Even before this latest loss, the biggest problem for Jennings's career was that even with the five-bout winning streak and his high ranking in all the various sanctioning bodies, it was hard to imagine when and where he might squeak in a title shot.

The world's very top heavyweights are finally circling each other and even pairing off for a series of big fights. Jennings, close to the top but with no real leverage, was already playing a waiting game. With Friday's ugly result, he's going to have an even longer wait.

This was a fight that was supposed to go Jennings way. He was expected to beat Rivas, stay high in the rankings, and poised to grab any surprise opportunity with one of the champs that might miraculously come his way. The only scenario that made this matching with Rivas any story at all, was if Bryant lost. So, congratulations to Rivas for creating a BIG heavyweight story.


Earlier in the night, Camden, NJ's Jason Sosa won an arduous ten-round decision over journeyman Moises Degadillo in a junior lightweight bout. Delgadillo established an early lead while Sosa revved his engines. The underdog bloodied Jason's nose in the opening round, and then cracked him with a left hook in round two that wobbled the former champ, and would have put him down, had he not used a steadying glove on the canvas to keep himself, more or less, upright.

Referee Gary Rosato correctly called the incident a knockdown, and things looked bleak for Sosa. Delgadillo remained in control through round three, but then as we've seen many times in the past, Sosa slowly but surely fought his way back into the fight.

Gradually, Jason chopped away at the points deficit, and even scored his own knockdown in round seven. After ten very hard rounds, Sosa earned the unanimous decision by scores of 96-92, and 97-91 twice. The win raised Sosa's record to 22-3-4, 15 KOs. Delgadillo slid to 17-19-2, 9 KOs, but fought extremely well against Sosa. 

This was just the latest exciting war waged by Sosa (and a willing foe). Jason's previous bout (W8 Reynaldo Blanco, in Atlantic City), was another nip-and-tuck struggle that thrilled the fans and further etched his legacy into our memory. Friday night's win was another one - nerve wracking, bloody, brutal, but beautiful to watch.

I'm not sure how many more of these wars Jason has left in his tank, but his fights have truly become can't-miss events. Let's enjoy these battles - and Jason - while we still have them both. Sosa's final run at the top of the 130-pound division is going to be sweet.

The entire seven-bout card was promoted by Top Rank and streamed live on ESPN+.




John DiSanto - Verona, NY (via ESPN+) - January 18, 2019