Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Jennings best U.S. heavy hope?
By Dan Rafael
American heavyweight prospects are few and far between. There's Seth Mitchell, who has been getting a huge push by Golden Boy and HBO, and Deontay Wilder, the 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist who is with Golden Boy and possesses great power but remains raw.
You should add Bryant Jennings (13-0, 6 KOs) to what is an unfortunately short list.
The 27-year-old from Philadelphia has come out of obscurity to score a pair of impressive wins on national television, as he was featured on two cards on NBC Sports Net's new "Fight Night" series.
Jennings will see if he can keep the ball rolling on Saturday night (9 ET, NBC Sports Net) when he returns to "Fight Night" to face Steve Collins (25-1-1, 18 KOs) of Houston. Collins, 28, has been a pro since 2003 but surprisingly will be fighting in his first scheduled 10-round bout.
Jennings-Collins is the co-feature on the card headline by another heavyweight bout. Former world title challengers Tomasz Adamek and Eddie Chambers square off at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., where Adamek, who is from Poland and lives in Jersey City, N.J., is an enormous draw in the large Polish community.
On the debut "Fight Night" card on Jan. 21, Jennings stepped into a fight made on short notice when injuries scuttled the main event. He put on a tremendous performance by outpointing previously undefeated Maurice Byarm in a unanimous decision. It was a good scrap, too.
Jennings returned just two months later and scored an even more impressive victory -- a ninth-round knockout of former titleholder Sergei Liakhovich on March 24. It was easily the best win of Jennings' career.
During the "Fight Night" telecast on June 1, star trainer Freddie Roach, who works as an analyst on the series (and who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Sunday), gave Jennings high praise when the subject of heavyweights came up.
"I think Bryant Jennings is the best prospect America has right now in the heavyweight division," Roach said.
Jennings, a pro only since February 2010, was happy to hear it.
"I totally went crazy after I heard that," Jennings said. "He had told me personally, but when he announced it on national television, I was blown away. Freddie knows boxing."
When asked if he agreed with Roach on his placement among American heavyweight prospects, Jennings wasn't shy.
"I work pretty hard and I do see myself as one of the best, if not the best," he said.
Said Russell Peltz, Jennings' promoter, who works closely with Main Events on the "Fight Night" series: "All you hear about is Tyson Fury, Seth Mitchell, David Price, and yet Bryant Jennings is the one they should be talking about."
We are, Russell, we are.