was a big one for heavyweight Bryant Jennings, who opened 2012 by beating
fellow prospect Maurice Byarm for the Pennsylvania State title. He followed that
up with four more victories moving from fringe prospect to contender all in the
space of five fights.
“I had a good year in 2012. There was a lot of
things that I accomplished but there were a lot of things that needed changing
and to be fixed in my career, so I made some adjustments,” said Jennings.
2013 hasn’t been as big for Jennings. He’s fought
just once in June, stopping Andrey Fedosov in six rounds. However, he recently signed
with influential promoter Gary Shaw in hopes this will further his career.
To his credit, “By-By” has progressed so far with
minimal amateur experience having not turned pro until age 25. Much like several
other American heavyweights, Jennings was involved in other sports prior to
sticking to boxing.
29-year-old Philadelphia-born heavyweight is 17-0 (9) and is ranked by all four
major sanctioning bodies at number four by the WBC , five by the WBA, four by
the IBF and 13 by the WBO.
Anson Wainwright - Over the summer, you beat Andrey
Fedosov. Can you tell us about that fight?
Jennings - For some reason, their team was expecting me to be rusty because I
was on a little layoff but I was on point that night. I rate my performance
pretty high because I had to be real strategic and use a lot of technique to
lure [Fedosov] into some traps. It was a great learning experience and I learned
a lot from that fight as I do every fight.
AW - When are you looking at
being back in action?
I’m hoping something will come to fruition in January. I know my team is
working hard to make it happen. Gary Shaw, James Prince and Antonio Leonard are
the best at what they do, so I’ll be ready to fight.
AW - Previously you stopped Bowie Tupou in five
rounds. Could you talk us through that fight?
BJ – Well, it was it was a 12-round contest. I’m always
prepared for 12 rounds. I pace it but the other guys just trying to get you out
of there in the first five rounds and once they don’t get you out of there,
they don’t have anything. I knew that’s what Bowie was trying to do, I knew
that’s the type of fighter he was. He was going to try to knock me out. He was
very hyper. He needed to calm down. He was very aggressive. I waited until he
calmed down. I was in control of the whole fight even in the midst of being knocked
down in the third. The stoppage came with a combination, with me turning it up.
He was actually nothing I thought he would be. It was the fifth round and he
hadn’t seen anything yet. I got him out early. I didn’t have to use any crazy
offensive tactics. It was basic.
AW - 2012 was a big year for you, a coming-out party
BJ – Well, I had a good year in 2012. There was a lot of
things that I accomplished but there were a lot of things that needed changing
and to be fixed in my career, so I made some adjustments. I wanted to make 2013
as big a year. I have the ability for boxing inside and outside the ring, so I
made some adjustments. I got a new manager. I put more and more time into
boxing because I still worked a job. It was more and more focus. It’s still not
easy at all but this is something I’ve worked on for 2013 to be more and more
serious and make that next step.
AW - While it’s still a distance
away, how far do you feel you are from competing with the Klitschko brothers
for world titles?
BJ - Right now, those guys are in control. They control the heavyweight
division. If you stay on top of your game, your time will come and when they’re
ready to get to you, they’ll choose you or when you become mandatory but for
now, you can only hope they don’t look at you as a tough opponent and overlook
you and pick you thinking they’ll beat you easily. You have to sit around and
wait. They’ve got the heavyweight division by the balls but I’m patient. I look
forward to being in the ring with one of those guys soon. If they don’t retire -
which Wladimir, I know for sure he’s not done yet. He has a couple more years but
I don’t have that much time - I’m going to do what I got to do to make myself
mandatory and then beat the sh*t out of them. The boxing game is more mixed with the physical. I’m a
very physical individual throughout my life. I don’t think [either Klitschko is]
no superman. It’s just a mental process and something to do with technique but
I think I’m better than those guys, so I think I’m ready now, plus I have the
mindset that makes any other boxers look small. I come in with a great
mentality and I’m on a different level with this boxing stuff.
AW - How do you mean on a
BJ – Well, mentally, we’re all physical but you know, when
you get in the ring, the mentality that takes over. I know a lot of fighters that
could be better fighters if they only had the heart, if they only had the
passion for the sport but me, I have a passion for the sport. I have a passion
for myself and to my health and I have the heart. I have what it takes to get
in there and fight. A lot of guys, they get hit they don’t want to fight back.
They go in there and fight for the money. They give up. They don’t show
anything. It’s just pitiful.
AW - You're now with Gary Shaw
Productions. How did the move in promotional teams come about?
BJ – [Manager]
James Prince and I really took our time to see what fit would be best for my
career and we decided to go with Gary Shaw Productions and Antonio Leonard
Promotions. Like I said, they are great at promoting and getting their fighters
in big fights. All I want is an opportunity to showcase my skills to the world.
AW - Who are the other members of your team?
My manager is James Prince. My trainer is still Fred Jenkins and I’m promoted
by Gary Shaw Productions and Antonio Leonard Promotions. I work out the ABC gym in the north of Philadelphia. It’s
run by the City of Philadelphia and Fred Jenkins is the head trainer and he has
been for the past 30 to 40 years.
AW - What were your early years like growing up in
BJ - The early
years growing up was definitely tough. Once again, my mentality helped me
overcome such a bad place. I’m actually still in it but you know, I don’t think
of it the same way I did because I have faith that I will succeed and remove
myself from that type of environment but it was hard. I had a whole lot of
temptations. I did a lot of things that aren’t on record. I did a lot of things
but I lived through it. It wasn’t easy but I think it’s a blessing. Not many
make it out. Yeah, boxing
saved my life. If I wasn’t boxing, I’d probably be doing something I shouldn’t
be doing. I’d probably either be dead or in jail. I had the mindset to be
successful financially but I seen no other way at a particular time and all the
negative things that can get you successful like being a dope dealer or being
someone like a robber, those things are more common than going to college or
having a career. Even though I had a job, I’ve seen people work my job for 40
years and they [would be told] you still got to work five more years to be
eligible to retire with full benefits and I’m like, “Listen. There has to be a
better way. I’m not working 40 years and still not really be anywhere. There’s
more to life.” I always had my imagination open and my mind open and I knew
there was a better way, period, and I found something and I stuck with it.
AW - Listening to you speak,
you remind me of another Philly native, Bernard Hopkins. Perhaps he’s a role
model or something similar to you?
BJ - I definitely look up to Bernard right now even in my career
and I look up to him as a stand-up guy. He is the things he does inside and
outside the ring but he’s not responsible for my thoughts or my way of life but
I do agree we do have some similarities. One thing I do respect him for is his
eating habits and health. He definitely does it at a high level. It’s something
I want to work on as far as if I’m a vegetarian or vegan, just watching what
I’m eating all the way down to a piece of candy. I definitely agree with you. I
do look up to him and we do have some similarities.
AW - How did you become
interested in boxing?
BJ - Boxing actually became interested in me. I didn’t find
it. It found me. I was always around the recreation center. I always knew how
to fight. It was just one day, I was 24 years old and one day, I walked into
this gym. It’s really unexplainable ‘cause there was no plan. It wasn’t planned
out to be. I never had a chance to think about being a boxer. Once I was there,
it was like, ‘Boom.’ Five months and I was in Utah for the Golden Gloves
finals. I had no choice but to choose this as a sport and it was unbelievable.
I was actually forced upon this sport. It was something I couldn’t help. I
didn’t have the time to think about it. Everything went by so fast. My professional
career started after eight months of being an amateur. I knew the type of
mindset I should have because I was an athlete before and approached life very
different, so I knew I had to go in and be serious and give it 100% and at the
same time, it wasn’t something I wanted to do but it would take me out of
poverty, take me out of the state of mind of staying in the neighbourhood or
being in the hood. It definitely saved my life but I really don’t know how it
AW - You were 25 years old
with less than 20 amateur bouts when you decided to turn pro?
BJ - It came about so quickly because that’s my mindset. You’ve
got to remember; my mentality is a very important piece of my life, my career.
My mentality helps me advance to the next level. A lot guys, we have them in
the gym now. These guys are very talented but these guys don’t have the
mentality to convert to the next level so therefore, they stay at the same
level. They’re very talented but it’s your mindset that takes you to the next
level along with your talent. So I put that in perspective and my mindset moves
me quicker. I was physically ready. I was part of a gym that was well-known in
Philadelphia and my mindset pushed me forward and put me at a different level.
I was separated from everybody that was there and I hadn‘t been there for a
year. It was the next step. It was everything and don’t be afraid of the next
level. Don’t be afraid to commit. I never really committed on anything ever in
life - never - except my job and, now, to boxing and my son. I always removed
myself from things whether it be relationships, other sports. I wasn’t ready to
give my all to [anything else]. Boxing was the one. It was too late. I’m 24 [at
the time] but I thought, “It’s got to be my time right now,” so I had to do
what I’ve had to do.
AW - Tell us about your life
away from boxing.
BJ - I have a day job, which is a mechanic at the federal
reserve bank. It’s a regular job, five days, a 40-hour week. I also have a
four-year-old son who I try to spend as much time with as I can. I have to mix
and balance everything as far as my life with him, as a full-time worker and as
a boxer. I am into music but I very seldom get a chance to do it. Other than
that, my free time is going to a boxing event. Everything is pretty much
boxing. It revolves around my life, my career, what I want to do. Right now, I
market myself 24 hours a day, 365 days. Boxing is my priority other than my
family and that’s what I have to do. If I’m at a boxing event, I have one of my
t-shirts on. If I’m making music, I’m speaking boxing. I write R&B songs.
AW - Do you have a message for
the heavyweight division?
BJ - Well, my message is being sent every fight. I’m quite
sure they know who I am. You’ve got to think; the marketing ability I have
right now is definitely on a whole other level. I’m only 17-0. I’ve only been
pro for four years. I’m doing things not only inside the ring but outside the
ring. I’m doing things as far as promotions and marketing, just being that full,
complete American idol. I’m definitely a different individual. I’m sure
everybody don’t see it yet but I’m a different individual and my work is going
to speak for itself. I have no words as a message. I just say my name. They can
say smart minds can put good things together anywhere because you can tell
somebody something all day long, word for word, and they still don’t
understand. My legacy, my future is only understandable to people who