At the age of 33, Bryant is a seven-year pro. A heavyweight contender, he got a late start in boxing at 24 and had very little amateur experience – only 17 fights – but has had surprising success against quality opposition as a professional.
Bryant recently signed a promotional contract with Top Rank, and is co-promoted by Antonio Leonard.
In his last fight on December 9 in New York, he won by third-round TKO against Don Haynesworth.
ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael reported from ringside [excerpts]: Former heavyweight world title challenger Bryant Jennings, of Philadelphia, stopped Don Haynesworth, of Greensboro, North Carolina, in the third round of their scheduled eight-rounder.
Jennings, a former world title challenger who took Wladimir Klitschko the distance in a 2015 loss, won his second fight in a row since signing with Top Rank following a 20-month layoff because of issues with his previous promoter.
Jennings attacked Haynesworth to the body and put his punches together well before he clobbered him with a clean right hand to the chin that badly rocked him in the second round. He was seemingly out on his feet, and [the] referee stopped the fight at 2 minutes, 29 seconds. [End Rafael item]
In his post-fight interview, Bryant said, “I’m happy I got some rounds in, even though it was just three. I’m just going to keep listening to [trainer] John David Jackson, and I just want to get more rounds. I don’t feel rusty, but I think I’ve got more work to do.”
When Bryant was still a novice with only 11 fights to his credit – six four-rounders and five six-rounders – he got a big break, and made the most of it.
For the debut show of NBC Sports Network’s “Fight Night” series on January 21, 2012, one of the fighters in the main event withdrew from the fight a week earlier. Unable to find a suitable replacement, the promoters put together a new main event that matched two young, undefeated heavyweights – Bryant versus Maurice Byarm – both of whom were moving up to 10-round status for the first time.
Bryant gave a strong performance and won by unanimous decision, which led to four more appearances on the series.
He had a “breakout” year in 2014 and established himself as a heavyweight contender. Bryant took significant steps up in class of opposition and scored his two most notable wins against previously undefeated opponents: a 10th-round TKO against Artur Szpilka (16-0 at the time) that January 25, and a 12-round split decision against former Cuban amateur standout Mike Perez (20-0-1 at the time) six months later on July 26.
Those wins put Bryant in the position to challenge for the heavyweight world championship in April, 2015.
After Bryant’s 12-round unanimous decision loss against heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko on April 25, 2015, Dan Rafael wrote, “Jennings, with his movement, awkward style and sneaky punches, made him work hard for it. Even though Jennings was the loser, he deserves a lot of credit for going the distance with Klitschko and even winning a few rounds along the way. Not bad for a 30-year-old who never even put on a pair of boxing gloves until 2009, when Klitschko was already three years into his latest title reign.
“All in all, it was an interesting fight in which Jennings elevated himself by surprising many by being able to go the distance in a decent performance and Klitschko marched on.”
In an earlier interview, Bryant said, “I switched it up – John David Jackson is my trainer now. When you replace a position, you search for the best person for that position and John’s name came up. I tried it out, I liked it, and went with it.
“He has a different set up, a different system, but I’m the same athlete. I have the same ambition, maybe even more. It’s just like one technician finishing up a product and sending it to the next technician to put his little shining on it. It’s a good transition – it’s a progress.
“I don’t see anything that could be a setback, because I am still who I am, and I’m the type of person that is going to work. I’m going to do what I need to do regardless, just with some added things to the repertoire. It’s all positive.
“I’m always pretty comfortable and confident with my conditioning and my awareness, my quick thinking and the way that I adjust.”
Regarding his nickname, he said, “I spell my nickname ‘By-By.’ ‘BY’ is my nickname – everybody calls me BY since high school. But since I started boxing and things like that, they just got used to saying Bryant ‘By-By’ Jennings. BY stands for ‘big young boy,’ because I was the same size – 6’3″, 230 pounds – at the age of 14 and 15. We drag out the words ‘young boy’ – the inner-city slang way we pronounce it sounds like ‘young bull’ – but if somebody speaks correctly, it’s ‘young boy.’ And it’s all one word, no separation. You know how slang in the inner-city goes. We mastered the slang. We come up with all of the slang.”
AMATEUR, PERSONAL BACKGROUND: Bryant said, “I was born and raised in North Philly. I have seven brothers and four sisters – no other boxers in the family. We’re all athletes, but none professional.
“I played football, basketball, and ran the 200 meters at Ben Franklin High School. I was the top guy in football – the top guy in the city in my position. I played defensive end.
“I was 24 when I started boxing. It was the last week of December, 2008. I just walked into the gym to stay in shape. I had 17 amateur fights. Within eight months, I had fought in three national tournaments. I had just started in January and the Golden Gloves were in May. Some people box their whole childhood and never make it there. I only had five months.
“I had to learn to love it. You know, it was like a relationship – it wasn’t something that I immediately loved. Once I loved it, I started to respect it more. But me, as an athlete, I came in with the attributes that a real natural athlete had. That was the best thing for me. I would always run anyway. I would always be dedicated. I would always watch what I eat and stay in shape – just because. I came into the game with that. I came into the game with my six-pack. I came into the game with my muscles and all that. I just had to learn to love and respect the things that boxing came about, like those extra sacrifices.
“I’m naturally right-handed, but I am ambidextrous. I can write with both hands. I can do everything with both hands except for playing basketball and throwing a football. I do that with my right hand. I’ll switch to the lefthanded stance in the ring sometimes, too.
“I’m not working at the Federal Reserve Bank anymore – I let that go in August, 2014. I was there for nine years – five days, 40 hours a week. Boxing takes your whole focus.”…