This Saturday on HBO’s Boxing After Dark, Cuban prospect Luis Ortiz (23-0 20 KOs) takes on Bryant “By-BY” Jennings (19-1 10 KOs) in a 12 round clash. Coming into the fight, Ortiz is the favorite and rightfully so. Not only does Ortiz have the amateur pedigree that typically accompanies such high expectations but in his 23 wins only one fighter has been able to go the distance. The other two fighters that managed to end the fight on their feet, lost by disqualification. While Jennings goes by the moniker of “By-By” he has shown more to be “Slide-By”. His movement and athleticism have been the standout feature in his arsenal. Jennings doesn’t come close to the 350+ amateur fights that Ortiz has but what experience he didn’t have when turning pro, he has certainly gained through his last 5 years.
Undoubtedly Ortiz has shown to have real power but this is not the only area in which he can beat you. His counter punching and the ability place shots at will on some opponents makes it hard to imagine that Jennings will be able to withstand the ring pressure. This is where the plot thickens. Ortiz is a proven amateur champion, but he has yet to get tested as a pugilistic pro. In his first two step up fights, Ortiz looked impressive against a well past his prime Monte Barrett and stopped Lateef Kayode in one round. In these fights, Ortiz showcased his ability to cut off the ring and assert effective pressure, which is going to be key if he plans to slow the output of Jennings.
Both Ortiz and Jennings have been pros for 5 years. Just 3 years ago Ortiz fought two fighters, one of which was making his debut and the other had a 1-2 record. In that same year, Jennings stopped the veteran Siarhei Liakhovich. From that point on, Jennings began his ascension to the top of the division which came to a head this past April when he took on long time champion Wladimir Klitschko. In front of the fans at Madison Square Garden, Jennings used sheer volume and footwork to disrupt the typically dominate Klitschko to a 12-round Unanimous Decision loss. Even in a loss, Jennings was able to come out unscathed and proved to many that even with a limited amateur background, he belongs in the ring with the best. For Jennings to win, he will need to impose a similar style to what he did in the Klitschko fight. Ortiz’ fight weight is all over the map, but he is a large heavyweight. Jennings will need to create angles and have Ortiz turning to prevent him from sitting down on his punches and building the power we know he has. In basketball, they have a “Run and Gun” offense, but Jennings will need to have the “Gun and Run”.
The obvious prize for the winner of the fight Saturday is they get to move on to bigger and better things, but the winner of this fight could also shape out to be HBO’s Heavyweight. The PBC has Wilder and Fury is signed with a UK promoter and doesn’t have contracts with US television networks. So not only does the winners grass becomes greener, he will become the face of HBO Heavyweight boxing. In the kind of world where networks and promoters are divided by a line longer than the equator, replacing the old poster boy Wladimir Klitschko arguably means more than simply moving up in the rankings.