Philly's Jennings prepares for big bout

Heavyweight Bryant Jennings works out blindfolded, directed by trainer Fred Jenkins, at the Athletic Recreation Center in North Philadelphia.
Heavyweight Bryant Jennings works out blindfolded, directed by trainer Fred Jenkins, at the Athletic Recreation Center in North Philadelphia. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 18, 2014

Fred Jenkins pulled the black sweatband over Bryant Jennings' eye lids, blinding Jennings as he readied in the ring at North Philadelphia's Athletic Recreation Center.

It is a trick the trainer said he picked up somewhere along his winding career. The boxing sage stood next to his stool on Wednesday afternoon and watched his heavyweight while barking instructions. The blindfolded Jennings followed his trainer's lead, maneuvered the ring, and punched what he could not see.

"Counter up the middle. . . . There you go. . . . Don't hop, just step. . . . Hands up, plant your feet. . . . Right hand crazy," Jenkins said.

The pair have trained with this technique since Jennings was an amateur. Jenkins said he wants the fighter to be able to hear his voice during a bout. He said the guidance - whether Jenkins believes it or not - will be vital to securing a win against Mike Perez in New York on July 26.

The bell rang, ending the round, and Jenkins removed the band. Imagine how smooth Jennings moves when he can see, the trainer said.

Jennings (18-0, 10 knockouts) will be the No. 1 contender for the World Boxing Council title if he wins the 12-round fight against Perez (20-0-1, 12 KOs) at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden.

"He's only been in the business for five years; I've been in the business for 43 years," Jenkins said. "What he does not see, I've already seen. I try to prepare him for it. Then, when the opportunity shows itself in the ring, he can automatically do it."

If Jennings wins, his title shot will likely have to wait until next year. Bermane Stiverne is expected to defend his championship in November or December against Deontay Wilder.

Jennings said his trainer's instructions can carry him only so far. The advice can be brought to the ring, but not into it, and he is on his own once the bell rings, he said.

"It's just like swimming," Jennings said. "If you have someone holding you up the whole time, and they're telling you to 'kick your feet, kick your feet, kick your feet,' then it's a different story when you're out there by yourself."

Jenkins said he is not concerned if his fighter believes the instructions are unnecessary. He said Jennings believes he is great, and that's what keeps the fighter motivated.

"And it's not my job to change that. It's my job to keep him overconfident and make him think that he's invincible," Jenkins said. "He was an ordinary guy before I created a monster."


mbreen@phillynews.com

@matt_breen

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