Jennings focused on Perez fight

Posted: July 22, 2014

SIX MONTHS ago, at Madison Square Garden, Bryant Jennings, the North Philly-born heavyweight, strutted toward the ring to do battle with Artur Szpilka.

But before the jabs could start flying, Jennings was being mocked by a portion of the crowd. Expletives were directed at the boxer, but he kept his cool, even looking toward a nearby security guard and smiling while spewing comments of his own.

"Just make sure nobody touches me," Bryant said laughing, while reminiscing to the media at the city's ABC Recreation Gym last week.

"I'm here to get in the ring. All that talk, it doesn't bother me . . . that was one of my easiest fights. Period. And it was because of my focus."

Jennings, 29, won a 10-round TKO on Jan. 25, his last time in the ring before Saturday's bout with Mike Perez, also at the Garden. It is perhaps the most important fight of his 5-year career.

After Perez suffered a shoulder injury, the scrap was pushed back so he could heal and instead work out in Ireland, where the Cuban-born fighter trains for most of the year.

The added time between fights hasn't made Jennings stagnant, as it might have some fighters. He remained hungry and focused. And above all else, Jennings maintained a passion for boxing, a mentality that stemmed from his time living in North Philly.

"It's a survival in life," Jennings said in reference to how being from Philadelphia helps him in the ring. "Philly people may have the best way of expressing it. We aren't trying to be back here, we don't want to end up back here. I don't like it. This is not the life I want to live. I want to be able to come back and teach and be an example to the people who don't even have a clue to how rough the city is and what it's like to step outside of it.

"[That mentality] doesn't even have to do with the ring. I'm fighting for me, my son, my family, my surroundings and my loved ones."

Jennings has come a long way since debuting at the the Arena in South Philadelphia in 2010. The 6-3 Jennings is 18-0, with 10 knockouts, and claimed that he was the second-best heavyweight in the world behind Wladimir Klitschko.

A win for Jennings would land him a chance at the WBC title against current champ Bermane Stiverne or No. 1 contender Deontay Wilder.

This will be Jennings' second fight this year, compared with five in 2012, but he's not too worried about showcasing his skills at this point of his career. Jennings has taken a lot of lessons from one of his mentors, current IBF, IBA and WBA light-heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins, when it comes to the importance of his career. But while Hopkins is fighting in his late 40s, Jennings has other plans for his life.

He wants to be a role model for Philadelphians and the surrounding area, showing that there is more to the city than violence.

"I have a lot of Philly support. Shout out to everyone that's supporting from Philly, I'm feeling the love," Jennings said. "I'm trying to get everyone to be on one accord on something. If no one else is the type of person to make that happen, then I'm the perfect person. No hate. Let's just show love, support your own and let's build this legacy. And I can't do that without it being stable at home."

On Twitter: @TylerRickyTynes

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