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Is Jennings Arum’s Last, Best Hope For Another Heavyweight Champion?

Bernard Fernandez

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Trainer John David Jackson has an interesting, but not exactly preposterous, idea for why his fighter, one-time heavyweight title challenger Bryant “B.Y.” Jennings, is topping Saturday night’s ESPN-televised card here at the Ocean Resort. The 33-year-old Jennings (23-2, 13 KOs) will swap punches with Alexander Dimetrenko (41-3, 26 KOs), 36, in a scheduled 12-rounder that can be termed as flying beneath the radar.

Although Jennings is nominally in world-title contention with a No. 11 rating from the WBA, he is not listed in the top 10 of any of the four major sanctioning bodies, and neither is Dimetrenko, a Germany-based Russian who has never fought for a widely recognized title. In the IBO’s computerized ratings of the top 100 heavyweights, Dimetrenko comes in at No. 14 with Jennings at No. 27.

But when Jackson looks at Jennings, who in his street clothes and black-framed glasses has the bookish look of a college professor, and has an introspective manner to match, he sees so much more than a guy who had his shot at the big prize and came up short when he dropped a reasonably competitive unanimous decision to IBF/WBA/WBO titlist Wladimir Klitschko on April 25, 2015. He sees a potential world champion who is still honing his craft, and he believes that Bob Arum, the Top Rank founder and CEO who signed Jennings to a make-good contract in June 2017, sees the same thing, or at least is daring to hope so.

“I think Bob wants one more heavyweight champion,” Jackson hypothesized Wednesday afternoon at the Atlantic Police Athletic League gym, where seven of the fighters on Saturday’s card went through brief and light workouts for the benefit of a small media turnout. “Yeah, he has a lot of great fighters, but if you have the heavyweight king, you rule boxing. It’s still the most prestigious and most marketable division in the sport. That’s just how it works. And Bryant represents the last, best opportunity for Bob to get there before he retires.”

It is something to consider. Although Arum was with Muhammad Ali for 27 of “The Greatest’s” bouts, and later rode the high surf with George Foreman during the second phase of Big George’s remarkable career, when he defied all odds by winning the heavyweight title at age 45 with that bolt-from-the-blue overhand right that put Michael Moorer down and out, the Top Rank honcho’s history with heavyweights is a bit sketchy. He took a flyer on Hasim Rahman after Rahman shocked the world by knocking out Lennox Lewis in South Africa, but Rahman never could summon more of the same magic and their association ended with little fanfare.

Arum has arguably the two finest pound-for-pound fighters in the business today, WBA lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and WBO welterweight ruler Terence Crawford, and he still holds paper on 39-year-old legend Manny Pacquiao, the only man to win world titles in eight weight classes and again a champ of sorts after he stopped Lucas Matthysse in seven rounds to claim the “regular” WBA welterweight strap. There is a steady flow of talent in the TR pipeline, one of the most promising prospects being featherweight Shakur Stevenson (7-0, 4 KOs), the baby-faced (he’s 21 but looks younger) silver medalist at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics who continues his professional development in a scheduled eight-rounder against Carlos Ruiz (16-4-2, 6 KOs) on Saturday’s card. Truth be told, there is a much greater likelihood that super middleweight contender Jesse Hart will find himself in a world title bout sooner than fellow Philadelphian Jennings. Hart (24-1, 20 KOs), who is ranked No. 1 by the IBO, No. 3 by the WBC and No. 10 by the IBF, lost by unanimous decision to WBO 168-pound champion Gilberto Ramirez on Sept. 22, 2017, and he could be in line for a rematch should he get past pesky veteran Mike Gavronski (24-2-1, 15 KOs), of Tacoma, Wash., in Saturday night’s co-featured attraction.

“I want to go out and get it over as quickly as possible,” said Hart, the 29-year-old son of 1970s middleweight contender Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, a huge puncher who imparted to his son the benefits of taking care of business as expeditiously as possible. “My dad (who now trains Jesse) always said that if you let a guy hang around too long, and he gets a little bit of confidence, the next thing you know, you’re in the fight of your life. I’d rather get in and get out fast.”

That philosophy is in stark contrast to the learning curve the more patient Jennings has been asked to master by Jackson, with Arum’s apparent consent. A very good defensive end at Ben Franklin High School in Philly, Jennings’ physical gifts are obvious, but getting his boxing skills to align with his raw athleticism has been a process. Jackson, a former WBO super welterweight and WBA middleweight champion, describes Jennings as a “work in progress,” but whose ceiling, presumably when attained, will elevate him far above his present status as just another fringe contender waiting for the more elite crowd above him (Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, Alexander Povetkin, Dillian Whyte and possibly a few others) to thin out.

“I like Bryant’s position,” Jackson said. “He’s under the radar right now. He’s not being talked up as a dangerous heavyweight, even though he is. But he’s not as dangerous as he can be. He’s using this time to develop his skills.

“The wonderful thing about being with Bob is that Bob is old-school. He’s committed to rebuilding Bryant’s career back up. You don’t hear Bryant calling out people, demanding a title shot right away. He knows, as Bob does and so do I, that you have to earn your way back up to the top and another shot at the title. It could take four or five fights. Bob is making Bryant prove that he deserves another shot.”

Since Jennings’ image-smudging two-bout losing streak – he followed his points loss to Klitschko with a seventh-round stoppage by Luis Ortiz on April 25, 2015 – he has strung together four consecutive victories, all of which can be  described as learning lessons. There were TKOs of Daniel Martz, Daniel Haynesworth and Akhbor Muralimov and a 10-round unanimous decision over Joey Dawejko, each fight a building block in his evolution into a new and improved version of his former self.

“Bryant needed to learn how to cut the ring off on an opponent, how to get inside and work in tight,” said Jackson. “He had no inside game. He just worked off the jab. You have to remember, Bryant had almost no amateur career, so when he turned pro (at the relatively advanced age of 25), he probably was rushed along a little bit. It was all on-the-job training. It still is, to a point. But when it all comes together for him, he’s going to be a helluva fighter. He’s some kind of physical specimen (at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds) and he has more power than people realize. If he continues to believe in the things I’m showing him and gets it into his mind that he can do it, he has all the tools to be a world champion.”

Should Jennings get past Dimetrenko – clearly the most difficult test he will have encountered since the setbacks to Klitschko and Ortiz – he moves a step closer to another grab at the brass ring. A loss might end his quest, at least in affiliation with Arum, a realist who knew when it was time to end the experiment with Rahman.

“To have someone like (Arum) to have faith in me has to be a positive thing,” Jennings said. “I’ve always had faith in myself. Now I have to show everybody what I’m still capable of doing.”

While Jennings-Dimetrenko and Hart-Gavronski will be televised by ESPN and ESPN Desportes, the remainder of the card – in addition to Stevenson, fighters who bear watching include popular Philadelphia bantamweight Christian Carto (15-0, 11 KOs) and Atlantic City super welterweight Thomas “Cornflake” LaManna (25-2-1, 9 KOs) – will be carried on the new ESPN+ app.

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Bohachuk KOs Unlucky Number 13 in Hollywood

David A. Avila

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HOLLYWOOD, Calif.-Super welterweight prospect Serhii “El Flaco” Bohachuk (13-0, 13 KOs) disposed of local urban legend Cleotis “Mookie” Pendarvis with nary a sweat in less than four rounds on Sunday evening at the Avalon Theater before a sold out crowd.

Bohachuk remained undefeated and continued his knockout streak with Pendarvis (21-5-2, 9 KOs) the victim. Aside from the main event, the 360 Promotions card was stacked with competitive action.

Bohachuk, 23, trained expecting an easy fight especially knowing that Pendarvis lacked firepower. But sometimes firepower is not all that important.

“He only had nine knockouts,” said Bohachuk, who trains with Abel Sanchez and Max Golovkin (Gennady’s twin) in Big Bear, Calif. “It was easy fight.”

The young Ukrainian felt it was easy but Pendarvis still unleashed several Cracker Jack combinations that caught Bohachuk flush. If only Pendarvis had power there might have been a different result.

Bohachuk floored Pendarvis in the first round with a left hook dug into the liver of Pendarvis and down he went. He resumed the fight but was visibly worried.

In the second round Mookie unleashed some of his magic with a sizzling left uppercut left cross combination that stung Bohachuk for a split second. Then he followed that with a sneaky overhand left and a right hook combination that seemed to come out of the dark. But without power behind those blows, Bohachuk remained in control.

Bohachuk regained total control in the third round and floored Pendarvis with a left hook bomb that immediately dropped him to the ground. The round ended seconds later and seemingly allowed Pendarvis to escape, but at seven seconds into the fourth round Pendarvis told the referee he could not continue and the fight was stopped.

“I wanted the fight to go longer,” Bohachuk said.

A super middleweight match saw Ali Akhmedov (13-0, 10 KOs) defeat Sacramento’s Mike Guy (9-4-1) by decision after eight rounds. All three judges scored it for Akhmedov who struggled with Guy’s stop and go style.

Kazakhstan’s Meiirim Nursultanov (11-0, 8 KOs) out-worked Luis Hernandez after eight rounds in a middleweight clash to win by unanimous decision.

Other Bouts

A lightweight clash between Mario Ramos (8-0) and Arnulfo Becerra (7-2) started slowly for two rounds then erupted into a bloody war for the remaining four rounds. Becerra caught Ramos repeatedly with three and four-punch combinations but Ramos always retaliated back. The crowd roared at the action that saw both suffer cuts and bruises to each other’s face that did not discourage more blows. Ramos was deemed the winner by decision.

“He pushed me into a war,” said Ramos of Becerra. “That’s what fans want.”

Other winners on the fight card were Devon Lee (7-0), Adrian Corona (4-0), Christian Robles (3-0), George Navarro (5-0-1) and Timothy Ortiz by knockout in his pro debut.

In attendance were actor Mario Lopez, WBC minimum weight titlist Louisa Hawton, European champion Scott Quigg and others.

“They’ll be appearing on our future shows this year,” said Tom Loeffler of 360 Promotions.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Fast Results from Oxon Hill: The Peterson Brothers Fail to Deliver

Arne K. Lang

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The story of boxing’s Peterson brothers, Lamont and Anthony, has been well documented. Growing up in Washington, DC, they were often homeless. Then Barry Hunter came into their life. A carpenter by trade, Hunter coached amateur boxing at a local rec center. He took the brothers in when Lamont, the older by 13 months, was only 10 years old and he’s been with them ever since, a rarity in a sport where some boxers seemingly change trainers more frequently than they change their underwear.

Today the brothers, who turned pro on the same card in 2004, appeared in the featured bouts of a Premier Boxing Champions show at the MGM National Harbor casino resort in Oxon Hill, Maryland, a stone’s throw across the Potomac from their old stomping grounds. And they were well-matched. Both of their fights were near “pick-‘em” affairs with the invaders the slightest of favorites.

Welterweight Lamont Peterson, a former two-division champion coming off a bad loss to Errol Spence Jr, was pitted against Sergey Lipinets, briefly a 140-pound title-holder coming off a loss on points to Mikey Garcia. Peterson was seemingly ahead on the cards through several frames, but one big punch, a straight right hand by Lipinets in round eight, turned the momentum in his favor.

The end came two rounds later when Lipinets hurt Peterson with on overhand right and followed up with an assault that sent the DC man down hard. Peterson arose on spaghetti legs but it was a moot point as his corner tossed in the white flag almost as soon as he hit the canvas. The official time was 2:59 of round 10.

After the fight, in an emotional moment in the ring, Peterson announced his retirement. If he holds tight to this decision, he will leave the sport with a 35-5-1 record. Sergey Lipinets, a kickboxing champion before he took up conventional boxing, improved to 15-1 with his 11th win by stoppage. Overall it was a good action fight with a high volume of punches thrown.

The co-feature, a 10-round junior welterweight contest between Anthony Peterson (37-1-1, 1 ND) and former IBF 130-pound champion Argenis Mendez (25-5-2) ended in a draw. The decision was unpopular with the pro-Peterson crowd but met the approval of the TV commentators and likely most everyone tuning in at home.

Both fought a technical fight. Peterson did most of the leading and seemingly had the fight in hand going into the late rounds where Mendez did his best work. There were no knockdowns or cuts, but Peterson suffered severe swelling over his left eye. The last round was the best with Mendez fighting with more urgency, perhaps out of fear that he would be victimized by a hometown decision.

Anthony Peterson was making his first start since January of last year when he coasted to an easy decision over Eduardo Florez, a decision later changed to a no-contest when Peterson tested positive for a banned substance.

In the swing bout, an entertaining 10-round contest in the 154-pound weight class, Cincinnati’s Jamontay Clark (14-1) overcame a rough patch in the third round to score a unanimous decision over Chicago’s Vernon Brown (10-1-1). The scores were 95-94 and 96-93 twice. At six-foot-two, the rangy Clark had a 7-inch height advantage.

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Pulev Wins Heavyweight Clash and Magdaleno Bests Rico Ramos in Costa Mesa

David A. Avila

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COSTA MESA, Calif.-Eastern European heavyweights slugged it out in Orange County with Kubrat Pulev scoring a knockout win over Bogdan Dinu on Saturday evening. The win keeps him in line for a possible showdown with Top Rank’s newly signed Tyson Fury.

After a slow start the Bulgarian heavyweight Pulev (27-1, 14 KOs) scored the knockout win over Romania’s Dinu (18-2, 14 KOs) before a large supportive audience who arrived with Bulgarian flags and hats at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa.

Until the fifth round the action lacked with both heavyweights not eager to fire. But an angry exchange of blows by Dinu saw Pulev emerge with a cut over his left eye. It also opened up the action between the European heavyweights.

Pulev increased the pressure and caught Dinu in the neutral corner where he unloaded right after right on the ducking Romanian fighter who dropped to a knee and was hit behind the head with a blow. The knockdown was ruled down by an illegal punch and a point was deducted from Pulev.

It didn’t matter. The Bulgarian heavyweight proceeded to unleash some more heavy rights and down went Dinu again. The Romanian fighter beat the count and was met with more right hand bombs and down he went for good this time at 2:40 of the eighth round. Referee Raul Caiz ruled it a knockout win for Pulev.

“Sometimes its good and sometimes it’s bad,” said Pulev about his actions in a heavyweight fight. “Sometimes blood makes me very angry.”

Dinu felt that illegal blows led to his downfall. But the winner Pulev was satisfied.

“It doesn’t matter, I was prepared and really good in this moment. I think I was very good boxing today and showed good punching today,” Pulev said.

Former champions

An expected battle between flashy ex-super bantamweight world champions didn’t deliver the goods as Jessie Magdaleno (26-1, 18 KOs) defeated Rico Ramos (30-6, 14 KOs) by unanimous decision after 10 rounds in a featherweight contest for a vacant WBC regional title.

A tentative Magdaleno was cautious and deliberate against Ramos who seemed to be stuck in slow motion for the first half of the fight. Behind some lefts to the body and snappy combinations Magdaleno mounted up points for six rounds.

Ramos stepped up the action in the seventh round and began stepping into the danger zone while delivering some threatening combos inside. Magdaleno resorted to holding and moving as the action shifted in Ramos’s direction.

But it was never enough as Ramos seemed to lack pep. The last two rounds saw Ramos engage with Magdaleno but neither landed the killing blows. After 10 rounds all three judges saw the fight in favor of Magdaleno 97-93, 98-92, 99-91 who now holds the WBC USNBC featherweight title.

“It was a long layoff and I took a fight against a tough, tough veteran and former world champion,” said Magdaleno, whose last fight was the loss of the WBO super bantamweight title to Isaac Dogboe last May. “Got to go back to the drawing board. I boxed as good as I could, he’s just a tough fighter.”

Other Bouts

Max Dadashev (13-0, 11 KOs) was dropped in the second round by muscular Filipino southpaw Ricky Sismundo (35-13-3, 17 KOs) and had a look of surprise. He turned it up in the third round and caught Sismundo rushing in with a slick counter left-right combination on the button. Sismundo was counted out by referee Tom Taylor at 2:30 of the third round of the super lightweight clash.

Former Olympian Javier Molina (19-2, 8 KOs) had a rough customer in Mexico’s Abdiel Ramirez (24-4-1, 22 KOs) who never allowed him space to maneuver in their super lightweight match. After eight close turbulent rounds Molina was given the decision by scores 78-74 twice and 79-73.

South Africa’s Chris Van Heerden (27-2-1, 12 KOs) thoroughly out-boxed Mexico’s Mahonry Montes (35-9-1, 24 KOs) until a clash of heads erupted a cut over his right eye. The fight was stopped in the sixth round and Van Heerden was given a technical decision by scores 60-54 on all three cards.

Welterweights Bobirzhan Mominov (10-0, 8 KOs) and Jonathan Steele (9-3-1, 6 KOs) slugged it out for six back and forth rounds at high intensity. There were no knockdowns but plenty of high level stuff going on. The bigger Mominov had the advantage and tried to take out Mitchell, but the smaller welter from Texas was just too tough and skilled to be overrun. Judges scored it 59-54 three times. Good stuff.

Detroit’s Erick De Leon (19-0-1, 11 KOs) survived a knockdown in the fifth and rallied to win by technical knockout over Mexico’s Jose Luis Gallegos (16-6, 12 KOs) in the seventh round of a lightweight clash. A barrage of unanswered blows by De Leon forced referee Ray Corona to halt the fight at 1:55 of the seventh round.

L.A.’s David Kaminsky (4-0, 2 KOs) out-pointed rugged Arizona’s Estevan Payan (1-7-1) to win by unanimous decision after four round in a middleweight contest.

Tyler McCreary (15-0-1, 7 KOs) fought to a draw with Mexico’s Roberto Castaneda (23-11-2) after six rounds. He got all he could handle from the Mexicali featherweight as both traded blow for blow throughout the contest. It was good experience for the young McCreary who looked good but tried too hard to take out the hard headed Castaneda.

Eric Puente (2-0) beat Alejandro Lopez (1-4) by decision after four rounds in a lightweight match by 39-37 scores all three cards. It was a very close match with little separation between the two.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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