Bryant Jennings has a lot riding on his shoulders, but he can take it. The 29-year-old Jennings got a late start to the sport of boxing, but his rise up the ranks has been meteoric. Jennings isn’t your typical boxing story either. Hailing from Philadelphia, Jennings has the pressure of following in some legendary boxing footsteps.
Philadelphia’s Jennings (17-0, 9 KOs) and Szpilka (16-0, 12 KOs) are due to meet in a 10-rounder on Jan. 25 (HBO, 9:45 p.m. ET/PT) in the Mikey Garcia-Juan Carlos Burgos co-feature at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Jennings, who is a graduate of Ben Franklin high school, also works a regular full time job as a mechanic for the Federal Reserve bank here in Philadelphia. Jennings has been referred to by many as the best American heavyweight around, and the countries best hope at bringing the Heavyweight championship back to the states.
Bryant Jennings will be returning to the ring after a lengthy layoff, where he’ll be facing the talented and undefeated Artur Szpilka on the undercard of the Mikey Garcia-Juan Carlos Burgos undercard on January 25th at the Madison Square Garden Theater, to be broadcasted by HBO.
Jennings sat down with BSO to discuss his return to the ring, growing up in Philadelphia, and being a top heavyweight contender yet still working a 9-5 job.
BSO: Good morning Bryant, pleasure speaking with you today. So you have a very unique story. Can you tell our readers how you got into boxing?
BJ: Well I was looking for something new to do, and for a way to stay out of trouble. I walked into the same North Philadelphia rec center I had always played basketball at, and decided to give boxing a try. No lie. I walked in, and decided that today I wasn’t going to hoop. That first heavybag workout did it for me. Plus I was a heavyweight, so they said we need you in here. I haven’t left the gym since.
BSO: You are from Philadelphia, so you are fully aware of the boxing history we have in this city. Do you get caught up in carrying on the legacy of the great fighters that have roots in our city? Do you feel pressure to live up to the likes of Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins and Danny Garcia to name a few?
BJ: No I think those are natural instinct that I get from the city. I think the same way it would affect a Eagles players, Flyers players or 76ers player to go out and put on for this city, it affects me. I fight hard to impress the fans in this city, but once they love you, they love you.
BSO: Did you have any hoop dreams? I know you went to Ben Franklin, and you are super athletic.
BJ: Football was actually my thing. I would hoop sometimes, but I actually went to combines to try and get an NFL contract. I was raw, I wasn’t equipped with the proper of training. I didn’t seek out the proper type of football training. I would do my own football drills, when I should have got some formal training.
BSO: James Prince is your manager now. Of course he has a music background, from the Rap A Lot Records days. How is it working with him in spite of the reputation he might have? Does his background in hip hop help with how you want to move your career along?
BJ: Well me and J met through a mutual friend. He contacted me a long time ago. Of course I had my little managment and promotional situation with moving from J Russell Peltz to Gary Shaw, and switching managers, from Fred Jenkins, my trainer, to James Prince. I’m a loyal person, and James Prince has been loyal to me from day one. So I felt like I had to return that loyalty. I knew how he rolled, I knew a lot about him, so he was the first person I went to once I decided I wanted a new situation. The background in rap music didn’t really play a part in why I chose to do business with Prince. I just always remembered him reaching out to help me, and I never forgot that. I appreciate people that may not be from your same city, coming with a good presentation for business. Prince did that.
BSO: Was J Prince instrumental in you moving over to Gary Shaw as a promoter?
BJ: Prince took a major load off of me when became a a part of my situation. So yes. James Prince took over a lot of the day to day things I was responsible for. I put everything in his hands, and the man does his job. “I had to do things my way. Very seldom do fighters make it out of Philly. There have been only a handful the last 15, 20 years that have actually made it out of Philly, like Bernard Hopkins and Danny Garcia. I didn’t want to be that person who was getting passed by. I had to spread my wings a little bit. I wanted to break free and do what I had to do.
BSO: Bernard Hopkins. What does he mean to you? Do you two guys have a relationship? What’s a typical interaction between you two like.
BJ: When we see each other we speak. If he has a moment, he will come over and offer some wisdom or conversation. That’s about it. We are cool, but that’s about it.
BSO: One aspect of your career I wanted to harp on was your full time job. Tell our readers about what it’s like being a top Heavyweight contender, and still holding down a regular job.
BJ: Me working a regular job serves a lot of purposes. It keeps me out of trouble of course. It allows me to be financially stable. Just because I’m a rising boxer, everyone assumes you’ve made, or you are worth this large dollar amount. In between fights the economy can be tough, and I don’t want to have want or ask anyone for anything. I don’t show off or anything. I enjoy the discipline and balance that being a good dad, working two jobs brings you. All those things are much needed.
BSO: How serious are you when it comes to your music. I heard you really enjoy music and can actually rap. Tell us about your musical background?
BJ: Music helps balance me out. If anything were to happen to me, I honestly think I can make a classic rap album. I think so. I’m not a bad rapper at all. You can compare me to the rapper Game. Game is soulful, underestimated, and a guy people can sleep on. I’m not one of those jump around rappers. All I listen to are classic albums. I would never listen to this new music if I was going to come out with an album. I’d have to rock classic.
BSO: You have an amazing story. Is there one piece of advice that you would give to a young fighter or anyone attempting to do something with a late start?
BJ: If you are going to try something, stick to it. Drop everything and focus on what you want do. If you want to box, stop everything you doing, and focus on boxing. Don’t cry about finances or anything like that. You can train, run and do several different things, without a gym. Find what motivates you. Don’t make excuses, drop everything and focus.