Last Thursday I posted a blog on this site talking about the tragedy of undefeated Cuban heavyweight Luis Ortiz’s inability to make a major heavyweight fight. It turns out that even as I was writing it, the final details were no doubt being finalized for exactly the kind of fight Ortiz needs. On Friday, HBO announced that Ortiz will face former world-title challenger Bryant Jennings on December 19, at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York.
Bryant Jennings was last in the ring in April, when he dropped a unanimous decision to heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. While that fight can’t really be called a close bout, the mere fact that Jennings won a few rounds and finished the fight standing, without taking too much damage, proves that he belongs in the heavyweight top 10.
Bryant Jenning’s showing against Klitschko is particularly impressive when his background is taken into consideration. The 31-year-old Phillidelphia native did not even start boxing until his mid-20s. After an amateur career of less than 20 fight, he turned professional and very much learned on the job. He’s looked sharper as his level of opposition has improved.
Physically, he’s a natural as a prizefighter. While at 6’3″ and about 225 pounds, he is not large for a modern heavyweight. But his reach is an astonishing 84 inches. He’s a big man with the arms and shoulders of a giant. Those over-sized limbs have obvious offensive advantages, but they help him at least as much on defense. They provide a massive shield for his normal-sized torso, allowing him to block and deflect opponets’ blows.
After his showing against Klitschko, it would not have been surprising to see Bryant Jennings back up and take on a couple of lower-level opponents, while biding his time, waiting for another championship shot. The fact that he’s coming immediately back into the ring with a big, explosive southpaw with a stellar amateur background speaks to the confidence his team has in him. While America’s other top-ranked heavyweight, Deontay Wilder, continues to fight fringe contenders, even after capturing the WBC trinket, Bryant Jennings is doing no such coasting. Credit is due to both him, and his promoter Gary Shaw.
For Ortiz, this is the opportunity he has needed. The 36-year-old Cuban is a danger to any opponent he faces, but he needs to start beating major opponents to earn a title shot.
There’s a lot at stake for both fighters in this bout.