There has been some substantial hype building around unbeaten American heavyweight Bryant Jennings recently, but after Jennings’ split decision win over Mike Perez on Saturday night, there is still much work to be done before Jennings can take on the elite of the division.
Jennings struggled hugely with Perez early on, and if it wasn’t for the Cuban tiring down the stretch, it was difficult to see a way for Jennings to win the fight. Perez controlled and outboxed Jennings for the first five rounds or so, but then faded dramatically — as he tends to do — and allowed Jennings to get a foothold in the fight.
In terms of boxing ability, Perez was clearly a level above, and when it came to fitness and stamina, the roles were reversed. At this level, it’s not an amateur fight anymore — it’s 12 hard rounds, and over those full 12 rounds, Jennings deservedly won a close decision. That doesn’t take away from what happened early in the fight though, and Jennings has a lot to work on before he steps up a level, or even fights at this level again.
If Perez would have had the correct conditioning and stamina, although nothing is ever a sure thing, it certainly looked as though Perez was on his way to a decisive decision victory. Jennings struggled to land punches as the head movement of Perez was too sharp for him early on, and the footwork too educated, but Perez enjoyed offensive success too as he continuously landed his straight left hand through the high guard of Jennings.
The question was whether Perez would tire again as he had in the past. The answer was yes, and Jennings, to his credit, took full advantage of that to claim the best win of his career. Jennings now has 19 wins from his 19 fights but he has, in all fairness, been matched pretty soft up until this fight and Perez is clearly now his best win by a long, long way.
With this win, Jennings now becomes the No. 1 ranked contender in the WBC rankings and will look on with interest when current champion, Bermane Stiverne, fights knockout artist Deontay Wilder some time in the near future. It will be a great opportunity for Jennings, but one that may come too soon on the evidence of the Perez fight.
Although, it’s worth considering that neither Wilder or Stiverne possess the skill level that Perez does. However, they do possess key qualities of their own and in addition to technical skills, Jennings power must also now have a question mark above it too. That’s far from being the only question, however, and Jennings will have many answers to provide if he is to go on and become a world champion. It’s still eminently possible, but it looks a little further away now, in the aftermath of the workmanlike win over Perez.