Athletic. Skilled. Undefeated. These are just some of the favorable attributed of Philly heavyweight Bryant Jennings (19-0, 10 KOs), who has the fight of his life Saturday (April 25) when he faces tenured champion Wladimir Klitschko on HBO.
Klitschko has more KOs than Jennings does fights. The champion’s current reign dates back nearly 10 years with 17 successful defenses. Overall, his 22 title defenses is second all-time behind Joe Louis (25). His left jab can be viewed as a power punch for its punishing effect on opponents. His left hooks and right hands snuff out consciousness with equal fervor. But Klitschko is an aging champ (39), and Jennings has recently developed into a legit threat via his wins over top contenders in Mike Perez and Artur Szpilka.
Is it possible the Upset of the Year is looming for Saturday?
KnockoutNation: Wladimir Klitschko’s reign has been dominant and has many debating his all-time ranking. Out of everything he does well, what has most impressed you about him?
Jennings: Hmmm… protecting that chin.
KnockoutNation: So even after going more more than 10 years without getting KO’d, you still think Wladimir’s chin is fragile?
Jennings: You can’t “improve” the chin. I guess it’s something that’s neurologically proven; you can’t just strengthen it. The best way to handle it is to avoid getting hit. It’s not something you can practice like “Oh, let me take this type of shot and see if I can take it.” Nah, he’s done a great job of protecting it.
KnockoutNation: Well something you can develop is remaining calm under fire, right? Don’t you think he’s done a good job of keeping his composure when guys attempt to go after him?
Jennings: He does stay relaxed under pressure. Now when he gets rocked it may look like he’s panicking. A lot of that is just having to think quick when you’re hurt. I’d say with him it’s more “controlled panic” now.
KnockoutNation: How concerned are you about not just Klitschko’s clinching, but his tactic of leaning his full weight on opponents to tire them out?
Jennings: I’m very concerned. My trainers are definitely on that and will be on the referee. You can’t win a fight holding. We all know how much he holds. It’s very aggravating.
KnockoutNation: Per the rules, clinching is a foul should it get excessive. If it happens and continues unabated by the ref, are you willing to make Klitschko pay for it with elbows, forearms and other methods?
Jennings: Yes, not blatantly of course. It’s a natural reaction if you keep getting held. If it happens, that’s what you get for holding. In boxing you make quick reactions. When you get out of a clinch, you’re trying to regain positioning quickly but still be smart. If I just swing wildly and hit him in the back of the head and he goes down knocked out, would I win the title? Would I be wrong?
KnockoutNation: Good point. Considering what we saw in New York a few weeks back with Danny Garcia and Lamont Peterson, how much of that “you gotta take the title from the champion” mentality are you bringing to this fight?
Jennings: I know I have bring it to him. I have to convince the judges in every round, no doubt.
KnockoutNation: Should you defeat Klitschko, the only other relevant belt is the WBC title held by Deontay Wilder. Considering that you’d be the lineal and recognized champ, how important would it still be for you to push the unification?
Jennings: Bring that shit over here. It is still necessary just to finalize things. You have to get in, make it hot, influence some people, get a legacy going and then you have to make decisions about how long you want to be in it. This game is not meant to be in it for a long period of time.
But this here is enough. It’s for all the belts that matter.
KnockoutNation: Madison Square Garden isn’t Brooklyn, but its close enough for Shannon Briggs to keep up his antics on fight night. How much of a distraction is he to this event?
Jennings:Shannon can’t disrupt anything, he’s cool. He can’t disrupt my energy. He can do anything he wants. Maybe it’ll take away some energy from Wlad.
KnockoutNation: Final thoughts on Klitschko and how you envision this fight going?
Jennings: He’s kind of like myself. He’s a well-spoken, distinguished guy. He’s charming but I’m not letting my guard down. I know he’s still out to take my fucking head off.
It will end in a knockout. It can go either way. I respect all possibilities and seeing who can withstand it.