Bryant Jennings has always been something of a boxing curiosity. He did not take up the sport until he was out of college–his professional debut was at age 25. It was not delayed by an impressive amateur career–he fought just 17 times for free. It is noteworthy, of course, that he reached the finals of the Police Athletic League and National Gold Gloves. To do that, he had to defeat some much more experienced boxers.
Despite the late start, Jennings became a legitimate heavyweight contender. He stopped Siarhei Liakhovich, Bowie Tupou, Andrey Fedosov and Artur Szpilka. He edged Mike Perez by split decision. He earned his way into the top 10.
In April 2015, Jennings lost a unanimous decision to Wladimir Klitschko. I do not normally put any stock into the “winning in defeat” concept–especially in boxing, where really big fights happen few and far between. But Jennings probably did add to his credibility in his loss to Klitschko. He faced a much bigger, more experienced champion with a dangerous punch and stayed on his feet for 12 rounds.
In December of that year, Jennings took on Luis Ortiz. This was Ortiz’s first major step up, but the Cuban fought for years at the elite level in the amateur ranks. He was able to exploit Jennings’ inexperience and batter him. Jennings did not return to action for 20 months.
I am actually impressed by the way Jennings has regrouped since that loss. He was extremely confident in interviews going into the Ortiz fight, but afterward essentially conceded that he was not prepared for how good Ortiz was. I suspect he had felt a bit over-confident. A let down like that is hard to come back from, in order to fight at the elite level.
Jennings fights again Saturday night on the undercard for Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux. He will face Don Haynesworth, an obese club fighter with a record of 13-1-1. The draw came against a guy who was 10-13-1. The draw against somebody who was 6-9. I point out these facts not to put the guy down–I am sure he would kick my ass without problem–but simply because they are facts and relevant to a discussion of this bout. Jennings has been in the ring with world class fighters and made a good showing. Haynesworth has, mostly, gotten the better of guys who nobody has heard of, outside of their own living rooms.
Jennings beat Mark Brown last July–an opponent of similar merit. He is essentially re-booting his career–facing opponents no better than what he was turning back a half decade ago. He’s getting hot rounds where it counts, but in an environment where he can take his time and work on whatever he realized he needed to work on when he lost to elite professionals. Expect to see him in at least one more big fight in the future.