The Philadelphia native embodies many of the qualities on which the City of Brotherly Love prides itself. He’s a hard-working straight shooter who does not thirst for the limelight, but nonetheless has ascended toward the top of the heavyweight division.
Jennings has a big opportunity in front of him Saturday night (HBO, 9:30 p.m. ET) against fellow undefeated heavyweight Mike Perez. It is the second fight in a row in which Jennings will be facing an undefeated opponent. He passed the last test, knocking out Artur Szpillka in the 10th round of their January bout.
While that type of win may add confidence for a fighter, Jennings says all it did was preserve the status quo.
"My confidence stands," he said. "You should have confidence before you enter a fight so (the Szpillka win) didn’t boost anything. I always have a great amount of confidence regardless of what the outcome is, so it did nothing but it just proved my point."
Jennings says he views Perez (20-0-1, 12 KOs) as "just a regular boxer."
Boxing pundits hope neither fighter is "regular" as the sport searches for heavyweights who are capable of challenging the Klitschko brothers at the top of the weight class, bringing more excitement to the division. That Jennings is a skilled big man and an American makes him a great hope for boxing fans in the U.S.
"Some people address me about it," Jennings said about being the latest American on whom fans can pin their heavyweight hopes. "I get it all the time, but I’m real humble and I know I have to get to the top before I start embracing all of that. I have to stay focused before I let any of that get into my head."
The way Jennings conducts an interview is the way he fights. Nothing seems to get him too excited or out of his mental zone, not even another chance to fight in a prime-time slot.
"That’s what I work hard for. That’s what I strive for, to show that I belong here," he said. "Of course I’m somewhat excited because people don’t always get the chance to showcase their skills on a big stage, that is the only reason that’s so special, but I just do what I have to do. I’m not on TV watching it, I just stay focused and do what I do and that’s to fight when I get in the ring."
Ten of Jennings’ 18 wins have come by knockout, but he is still known more as a boxer and a technician than a devastating knockout puncher. However, his win over Szpillka showed his power, as well.
"Fights are more mental than physical. He was ready to go, but the simple fact that I did it in such fashion was a testament to my patience," Jennings said. "Guys get impatient and start to rush and that’s when they look sloppy and get tired quickly."
Jennings says he is not thinking past this fight, even though a win would put him in line to challenge fighters at the top of the division.
So as usual, we can expect a focused, determined Jennings, and if he wins, we can, as usual, expect that he will act like he’s been there before.