PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Bryant Jennings chops at a heavy bag with vicious intentions, slowly circling one way, then another. It’s hard to believe anyone could withstand any of Jennings’ thudding blows, as the iron chain sways and the wooden beam the bag is fastened to strains, making the roof creak each time Jennings connects.
The undefeated heavyweight wears a sly grin as he warms up for a morning workout at the ABC Gym in North Philadelphia, in preparation for his showdown with undefeated Mike Perez (20-0-1, 12 knockouts) on the Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Geale undercard on July 26 at Madison Square Garden. Jennings-Perez is the first bout of an HBO “Championship Boxing” broadcast.
Jennings likes to say that he is holding a secret. That’s the idea that he’s come nowhere close to what he’s fully able to do. He plans on showing that against Perez.
Jennings’ “silly-shell defense,” as he likes to call it, will baffle Perez. He doesn’t have to concern himself with bringing his elbows down to block body shots, because his arms are naturally long enough to protect his torso. Jennings feels his power is under-estimated and, besides, Perez really wants no part of him, according to the Philly native.
Perez and Jennings (18-0, 10 KOs) were originally supposed to fight on May 24. However, the fight was postponed when Perez suffered an injury to his left shoulder during sparring.
“That’s what they said; [Perez] had to be really hurt,” Jennings said incredulously. “I don’t believe he was hurt at all. I think he needed more time to train. I don’t think he was prepared at all to face me May 24. I do want to knock him out. Where I am in my career, where my progression is, I think I’m in the right place that I can give you that good knockout with style.
“There aren’t many concerns about fighting Perez. I know I have to work hard, and that’s with any fighter, but I think my ability to move is something that I will be able to use against him, as well as my length. I can use very long shots or very short shots. He’s shorter than me. I stood next to him and he’s probably two or three inches shorter than me. He has been in the game for so long he shouldn’t be as crude as he is at this time in his career – and I think that he is.”
You would think Perez’ punching power would concern Jennings. But it doesn’t. When Perez dismantled Magomed Abdusalamov, it didn’t make Jennings shudder.
“You have to understand something,” Jennings said, “Magomed didn’t have a decent style. He was a puncher, and not a very technical guy at all. He was an offensive heavyweight with punching power, but who’s to say how hard his power was, because he beat guys on their way out or guys he would overwhelm that weren’t at his level.
“Those are the guys Magomed beat. I pose a much different threat to Perez. I do have defensive skills, and I am more than just a puncher. I plan to show him that. First of all, I’m an adjuster. People say I start off slow, but I like to say I start off watching. You have to map things out prior to that first shot. Depending on what he has and what he brings, I’ll know how to counter that. I’m ready to display any of the fighting styles that I have. He may not even get past my jab. If he wants to fight fire with fire, I’m ready for that, too. One thing he won’t understand, if he tries to jump me early, my defense has worked well.”
Fred Jenkins, Jennings’ trainer, guarantees it will be a live fight.
Perez has an all-or-nothing quality.
“Perez will bring his A-game and we’ll bring our A-game,” Jenkins said. “People need to know Bryant Jennings is still learning how to fight. On his skill level, he’s at a B working on a B-plus. Each fight is a learning experience for him. Anything can happen in this fight, it could go the distance or an early knockout. But if the opportunity is there, Bryant is taking it. One thing Bryant is and that’s patient.”
Another is that he's evolving.
Jennings feels he’s in the wrong weight class, in terms of his fighting mentality. The lower classes show everything in boxing. Most heavyweights, in Jennings’ opinion, are lumbering. He views himself as a small man trapped in a big man’s body. Adding to Jennings’ desire is the void left by a signature American heavyweight. It’s a place Jennings wants to fill.
“Most people get into the boxing game and they don’t know how to really fight,” Jennings said. “I’ve always been able to fight. Heavyweights don’t use the full arsenal that’s out there. I see myself still evolving. I’m very young in the game right now and I think I’m on the correct path to being one of the greatest ever – someone who will be around for a long time. Everyone will see that against Perez.”
Video by Bill Emes