By Rich Cheney: Top Rank has signed former heavyweight world title challenger Bryant Jennings (19-2, 10 KOs) to a contract. They hope to rebuild the career of the 32-year-old Jennings, who has been out of the ring since his 7th round knockout loss to Luis “King Kong” Ortiz in December 2015.
Jennings has dropped out of the top 15 due to his 2 years of inactivity. Before his loss to Ortiz, Jennings was beaten by former heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko by a 12 round unanimous decision in April 2015. The 6’3” Jennings was competitive the much taller 6’6” Klitschko, but ultimately he didn’t have the size to do much with him.
It appears that Top Rank boss Bob Arum doesn’t have too lofty of hopes for Jennings, as he’s not talking about him winning a world title. Arum seems to be realistic in his aspirations for him. Arum is hoping he can get Jennings a world title shot against IBF/WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
Obviously, there would be good money to be made in a fight against Joshua, especially if Jennings can be built back up to where he was before his back to back defeats against Klitschko and Ortiz.
“We can do some decent business with him,” Arum said to ESPN . “We’re going to build him back up, and we think he’s competitive with guys like Joseph Parker, Andy Ruiz and maybe even [world titleholder] Anthony Joshua — although Joshua looked pretty awesome against [Wladimir] Klitschko, even though he was in trouble for a little while. Jennings, when he gets back in the saddle, fits in with guys like that.”
Just how much rebuilding Top Rank is willing to do with Jennings is the important question. If they really rebuild the guy the right way, it’s going to take 2 to 3 years of careful match-making for Jennings to strike gold for them. Top Rank would have to be willing to keep Jennings on their payroll long enough to find out if they can get that big money fight against Joshua.
That would be the only real fight that Jennings can make a ton of money. Jennings vs. Deontay Wilder or Joseph Parker wouldn’t be big enough fights for it to be worthwhile. Jennings would likely lose both of those fights, and the money wouldn’t be good enough to go after them. Once Jennings loses again, then Top Rank would be back to square one of having to rebuild his career again.
”Being with Top Rank means I will get an opportunity to fight for a world title,” said Jennings to ESPN.com.
It’s going to take some hard work and plenty of time for Jennings to get into position where he can get a title shot. I doubt Top Rank will be willing to hold onto Jennings long enough for him to become a mandatory challenger for Joshua. I think they’ll look to get Jennings a top 10 ranking, and then try and swing a deal to have Jennings fight Joshua. Once Jennings loses that fight, then my guess is Top Rank will cut him loose and look for another heavyweight they can build up to put in position for a world title shot against Joshua. Right now, there’s nobody in the division that can beat Joshua. Whomever Top Rank builds up to fight Joshua would be someone just getting a title shot and that’s about it.
There are some good prospects coming along that could give Joshua trouble in the future like Daniel Dubois, Tony Yoka and Joe Joyce. Top Rank didn’t move on those guys fast enough to scoop them up. Those are fighters that can potentially give Joshua some headaches if they can mature a little bit more. Joyce is up there in age at 31. He might be too old to build up.
Jennings is Top Rank’s only fighter that can potentially get a world title shot in the future. Top Rank doesn’t seem to have a lot of interest in the heavyweight division for some reason. It’s easy to see why. Wladimir Klitschko was so dominant for a lot of years, and there was no one out there that could beat him until he got old and was defeated in back to back fights by Tyson Fury ad Joshua.
We now have Joshua that has taken Wladimir’s place as the top fighters in the heavyweight division. Joshua look just as solid and unbeatable as Wladimir did. It would be crazy for Top Rank to pour a bunch of money into the heavyweight division right now. It’s better to just build someone up for a quick payday and then cast them off and look in another direction.
Jennings would have a slight chance of beating Joshua, but not a good one due to his lack of size and power. Jennings is a medium sized heavyweight. He’s too big to make cruiserweight, but too small to beat the giant heavyweights that dominate the division today.
Jennings gave Luis Ortiz some problems before folding in the 7th. Ortiz was just too skilled for Jennings. Ortiz was doing a bit of everything in that fight. At times, Ortiz looked like a copy of former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. By the end of the fight, Ortiz was fighting like Lennox Lewis in nailing Ortiz with uppercuts. It was a sensational performance by Ortiz.
The really impressive thing about that performance was the fact that Ortiz fought while being sick with the flu. Jennings was outclassed more than anything by a guy that had no business being in the ring as sick as he was.