Bryant Jennings December 19 showdown with Luis Ortiz was already a major event on the boxing calendar. Ortiz is a former Cuban amateur standout with a 23-0 record and 20 KOs. Jennings is a legitimate top-five contender in the division. His only career loss came by decision against Wladimir Klitschko.
For Ortiz, this is his first true test in the professional ranks. For Bryant Jennings, it’s the opportunity to rebound after his loss to Klitschko last April, and against one of the most dangerous opponents of his career.
But after Tyson Fury’s unexpected dethroning of Klitschko last weekend in Germany, everything that happens now in the heavyweight division takes on added lustre. For the first time in over a decade, none of the heavyweight belts belong to a Klitschko. It looks like it could be the start of a new era in the heavyweight division.
Ortiz’s WBA “interim” world title will be at stake, although that’s frankly a title that’s worth mention only for the sake of mocking it. Where does the WBA get off sanctioning an “interim” title when they already have a “super” champion (Fury) and a “regular” champion (Ruslan Chagaev)? But regardless of alphabet soup nonesense, this is a compelling fight, with a ton of potential for excitement.
Both men sounded extremely confident on a media call earlier today. “Anybody who comes to fight me, I plan to knock him out,” Ortiz said, through a translator. “I’m a boxer-puncher.”
Ortiz’s trainer, Herman Caicedo, trumpeted his fighter’s deep amateur background. “There’s not a square inch of that ring he can’t manipulate to favor him,” said Caicedo. “He’s seen it all. There’s absolutely nothing Jennings will be able to do that will surprise him, where Luis will be able to do things that we don’t thing Jenning will have been able to prepare for.”
But for his own part, Bryant Jenning’s was relatively dismissive of Ortiz’s amateur achievements: “He says what he’s supposed to say. He has every right to believe in himself and his style…I just don’t believe in the opponent’s Ortiz has faced. This is his first real fight as a professional.”
There’s a lot to like about both of these fighters. Ortiz is an explosive, charismatic big man. With political relations beginning to warm between the U.S. and Cuba, there’s a very real likelihood that the island nation full of boxing fanatics might soon be able to welcome professional cards. If the cards fall right, Ortiz could become a superstar there.
Bryant Jennings is a smart, hard-nosed fighter from the tough Philadelphia scene. His manner of answering question from the media is direct and engaging. While Deontay Wilder holds the WBC strap at heavyweight, Jennings has fought a far-higher caliber of opponent.
The winner of this fight will be well positioned to stake a claim to the top of the heavyweight division.