Jennings Wants to Return The Heavyweight Division To Past Glory

    (July 22, 2011 – Source: Scott Heavey/Getty Images North America)

    The popularity of the Heavyweight division has been at a historical low point for almost a decade now. Yes, the Klitschko brother’s still pack the house when they fight but besides them, there is a lack of interest in the division. The plight of the American Heavyweight has a lot to do with it. Since Evander Holyfield’s prime, there hasn’t been any contenders, only pretenders. Hasim Rahman had a very short term as champ but proved to not have staying power. Tony Thompson had his chance; unfortunately he couldn’t get it done. Eddie Chambers, Cris Arreola both had promise but fell short, and Kevin Johnson doesn’t pack the punch to maintain atop the division. So who’s going to step up?

    Now the lifeline of the American Heavyweight rests on the shoulders of Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell and Bryant “By-By” Jennings. Both are undefeated and their stock is going nowhere but up. In speaking with Jennings, he seems eager to put not only an American in control of the division but the division back in control of boxing. “As Heavyweights we should fight more often. This is my 4th fight of the year and I don’t see any other Heavyweight being that active to where they can gain a buzz. They have to gain a buzz just not for themselves but for the division, do it for the division! These guys, I don’t know what they are working on, but if you offer them a title fight right now they won’t take it. They say they’re not ready. What the hell were you doing? You’ve got over 20 fights, you’re still undefeated and you’re still not ready yet? That’s why I like to test myself earlier because by the time I get to 20 fights, I better be ready. If not then I wasted my time, like what the hell am I doing?” Jennings exclaimed.

    The 4th fight this year that Jennings is talking about is his Sept. 8th showdown with Chris Koval, on the undercard of Tomasz Adamek vs Travis Walker. This will be Jennings 3rd time fighting at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Jennings said, “It’s going to be good exposure. I don’t think I would be fighting under a lesser fighter ever. It would be a waste of time. I think my fights have to be seen. They have to be on some noticeable card. It’s almost like acting out a good act and not putting it on film. So everything I do has to be seen, has to be noticeable.”

    Jennings and long time trainer Fred Jenkins have been at home at the ABC Rec Center in Philly, soon to be the EliteKlass Rec Center, preparing for this clash. Koval might not be the toughest opponent Jennings has been in with, but there will be no looking past him. “My manager and promoter, they think lower of him so to them it’s like a tune-up fight. But to me it’s a war just like everything else. I always go in thinking they are going to bring the ruckus. So I’m prepared for the worst,” Jennings stated.

    In the gym it’s been a lot of the same work for Jennings. Getting better technically and physically is what Bryant has based this training camp around. “I’ve been working on a little more, like endurance. Picking it up a little bit more because I know that’s an edge. Between the Heavyweights that are out now, it’s kind of like an edge that I have over the game. So if we can enhance it, it would be more that great. Plus my defense,” Jennings proclaimed. Working his stamina to another level will not only benefit him in this upcoming fight but he plans to get on another card in September. Jennings told me, “I’m trying to get on a Sept. 21st card also. I’m trying to do something nobody else is doing, be active. If I fight 2 times in 1 month it will bring me up in a lot of conversations, like wow this guy fought back to back.”

    To use the expression “By-By” used, that’s a way to gain a buzz. You don’t see Heavyweights stepping in the ring twice in a month. When that happens, it’s usually in the lower weight classes. If he’s able to put away Koval by way of knockout that would even be more buzz worthy, and we both agreed that he has a good chance. “I just hope he comes to fight so I can show a little more my damn self. Out of 9 losses, 7 times he got knocked out. That really rings a bell with me that he can’t really take a punch,” Jennings expressed.

    Bryant is ready to fight anybody, any place. Though victories over Kevin Franklin, Maurice Byarm, Siarhei Liakhovich, Steve Collins and Chris Koval, assuming he beats the overmatched Koval, won’t be enough to get him a date with a Klitschko. Those names might be enough to get him in against Seth Mitchell. It’s inevitable they are on a collision course with each other especially being the cream of the American Heavyweight crop. Jennings added, “I know its coming. I know its coming but I don’t think it’s going to be as great as it could be if the game was more setup properly. A fight between me and him would just be a fight between me and him. After that it’s like ok what’s next.” I don’t know if a bout with Mitchell will be swept under the rug by anyone in the boxing community. The victor wouldn’t be over looked the least bit. A win against Mitchell and he will definitely get his chance with one of the Klitschkos.

    When speaking on tangling with a Klitschko, Jennings declared, “I consider myself ready. I know the boxing game is pretty much mental and there’s a lot of physical. But it’s mainly mental and if you maintain your mentality then you’re able to do some things that you never knew that you can do. I don’t think their mental is really that strong. Vitali has been known to have issues as far as not having that much heart. When you’re getting the best of him he breaks down. I’ve got a plan and my plan can’t be no worse than whoever stepped in front of these guys previously, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

    The fact is that not too many of their opposition are talented enough to push them to the limit. To further the ides they haven’t been tested, dating back to 2008 the brothers have combined for a total of 13 stoppages in 18 fights. “I only speak on this, from the perspective of looking at their past opponents, and you’ve got to be kidding me. Come on, I can see the people that they demolish are not on my level. I don’t consider them on my level. I don’t consider them on a guy like Seth Mitchell’s level or somebody that’s more known and hungrier. No disrespect to Tony Thompson but come on,” Jennings replied.

    When the time comes for Jennings to face Wlad or Vitali, it will be an invigorating day for the division. With the skill set he possesses, there is a legitimate chance an American can wrap a Heavyweight world title around his waist but like I mentioned earlier, Jennings needs to step his level of foe up. Beating no names won’t get him there and he knows it. Padding his record is not his concern, getting to the prize is. Getting through every obstacle while looking impressive in doing so is a must. “I know I won’t go in there looking like no punching bag. Not saying I can predict what can happen but I’ve got to keep saying it, you’ve got to be kidding me. I won’t speak on their (Klitschko brothers) performance. Again, I’m only speaking on who’s in front of them and what they do and how the hell did they get there? I’m trying to get there. I know it’s whatever with the politics. You’ve got to get your way up there and all that. But it’s like you’ve got to jump through a bunch of holes to get the fight. I guess I’ve got to keep fighting,” Jennings remarked.

    Maybe the Heavyweight division with return to its past glory and flourish. Maybe the reign on the Klitschkos will continue and the division will maintain in obscurity. What’s the remedy? Jennings says it’s for the best to fight the best. Bryant emphatically stated, “I don’t feel boxing is doing a good job with the Heavyweights period. We all need to be fighting each other. We have too many prospects and none of us are fighting each other, bottom line.” Whether it is or not, I hope something happens soon to add the excitement back to an almost forgotten weight class.

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