After his first defeat, Bryant Jennings is BACK. And Luis Ortiz is the man that seeks to block his return to glory. We caught up with the very confident Philly puglist for this one on one with Ismael AbduSalaam.
Eight months ago, heavyweight contender Bryant “By By” Jennings experienced what many young fighters in the modern era dread – the first defeat. But instead of hearing calls of “fraud” and “pretender,” Jennings saw his stock rise due to his highly competitive effort against then long-reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Now, Jennings begins the second phase of his career. Is he destined to be a solid contender just outside the championship class, or the one that breaks through now that Klitschko is dethroned? Standing in Jennings’ way is the 6’4, 230 plus pound Luis “King Kong” Ortiz. Although untested, Ortiz is viewed as a dark horse contender due to his formidable dimensions (84” reach) and massive punch (20 KOs in 23 wins). The winner gets crowned WBA interim titlist and on the short list to eventually face newly crowned champ Tyson Fury.
Jennings sits down with us to explain why the best is yet to come.
AllHipHop.com: A few months ago this fight was negotiated and turned down. What made you comfortable taking this fight now considering you're an established Top 10 guy and Ortiz is still getting there, meaning he has more to gain and you more to lose?
Bryant Jennings: They [Golden Boy] pushed it. I said if they could make it worth it, I'd accept. The first offer was kinda disrespectful considering he came off a drug suspension. It was like "Wow, what makes you think this guy is worthy of a shot against me for a position of such." That's why it was denied at first.
But they came back and raised the bar so I accepted.
AllHipHop: What was more important, the money or the fact this is for the WBA interim title and gets you back in position to compete for another major title?
Jennings: That's a good question -- I'm not really sure, I'm going to be honest. I think it's more so a mixture of both. They made it make "sense," and they made it make "cents." I got to kill two birds with one stone.
AllHipHop: Because he's been busted for a drug suspension, does that stay in the back of your mind that he may attempt it again even with VADA testing in place?
Jennings: Nah, not really. I've never had to deal with something like this. You consider it beforehand, but once you take the fight that has to go out the window. I have to be 100% focused and make sure I defeat this guy. With my previous opponents, I always spot their weakness. If they did take a drug, they need to get their money back. [laughs]
AllHipHop: With all the trainers out there, what made you go with John David Jackson?
Jennings: We got together through a prior recommendation someone gave me, nothing special. It wasn't about me being weak on anything in particular; it was just improving all things. There is always room for getting better and someone being able to challenge you and get that better out of you. I wanted someone to make me a well-rounded fighter.
AllHipHop: Protecting the undefeated record has become prevalent among many young fighters. In your case, the Klitschko loss has elevated you to most fans. In a sense, was it a relief to get that first defeat out the way and realize it wasn't the end of the world?
Jennings: [Laughs] Like I tell people, I'm from Philly, right? The Eagles ain't won a championship since 1960. The Sixers haven't won since '84. In sports, there are three outcomes: win, lose or draw. We are there to entertain and everyone can't be Floyd Mayweather. You just make sure you go out there and give your best. Pacquiao is still considered one of the Pound 4 Pound best and he has, what, seven losses? A loss is what?
We as fighters only react to a loss if you're a weak person. If you didn’t give 100% in training camp, then you should feel bad about it. If the loss is controversial, that's something you can be upset over. But you can't take it back. Pacquiao really won the first fight against Bradley but can he take it back? No. You rematch and take care of business.
At the end of the day, your record doesn't even matter. All the greats we can name, we never mention their records. We talk about what they did. What's Muhammad Ali's record? Most people don't know off top. What about Sugar Ray Robinson? We don't shine light on their losses. We shine on their great performances and what they did to change the game.
AllHipHop: Speaking of great performances, why is it so hard for us to get them regularly in the heavyweight division? Klitschko-Fury was notable for the outcome and a potential changing of the guard over anything that happened in the ring...
Jennings: [Sighs] That's still a question to be answered. I really don't have the answer.
AllHipHop: From boxing standpoint, do you feel you're carrying Philly on your back?
Jennings: I wouldn't say that -- Philly has a lot of fighters coming up. We got talented guys ready for the Olympic Trials. We got young guys on the come up like Jesse Hart and Julian Williams. Steve Fulton, Kevin Farmer... we got a lot guys. Nah, I definitely don't have it on my back alone. I may be the big homie, but I share it.
AllHipHop: Back to Luis Ortiz for the last question. Much has been made of his knockout record. When you give him the eye test, do you feel he's overrated because of his level of competition?
Jennings: You have to put it perspective. When you're ranking power, you rank on what it does to guys who are in shape. If a guy knocks out a guy who's known for being in shape, then you can start giving credit to the power. When you're not in shape, it's easy to get knocked out. He was supposed to knock out all the guys he's fought so far. Anyone who survived, that was an upset.
I fought guys where I was supposed to get knocked out and did the knocking out a few times. I was never focused on just punching and that's why I have a well-rounded arsenal. I'm not saying he doesn't have power, but he still has to prove it to me.
Bryant Jennings vs. Luis Ortiz airs live on HBO Boxing After Dark at 10:15 p.m. ET.