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Philly Guys Jennings and Hart Take Different Paths to TKOs in Atlantic City

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  • Philly Guys Jennings and Hart Take Different Paths to TKOs in Atlantic City

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    By Bernard Fernandez

    ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.—Heavyweight Bryant Jennings and super middleweight Jesse Hart are from the same hardscrabble North Philadelphia neighborhood, but their methods of attaining the desired result can hardly be described as similar. The more cerebral Jennings, a vegan who years ago swore off red meat, prefers the strategic approach, patiently taking his time to execute a fight plan and waiting to capitalize on openings in an opponent’s defense that don’t always come early or often. Hart, son of 1970s Philly knockout artist Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, has much of his dad’s trademark eagerness to take care of business as quickly and emphatically as possible. He fights with the impatience of a man whose hair is on fire, or with the realization he is double-parked outside the arena and the meter maid is just down the street.

    But circumstances have a way of rewriting a prepared script on the fly, which is why Jennings, on the wrong end of a flash fourth-round flooring by the very large Alexander Dimitrenko, fought with a heightened sense of urgency in registering a ninth-round technical knockout in the main event of Saturday night’s Top Rank on ESPN card in Ovation Hall at the Ocean Resort Casino, formerly known as the Revel. He dropped the 6-foot-7, 257-pound Dimitrenko twice in the eighth round, and finished off the 20-1 underdog with a ripping right uppercut that sent him crashing to the canvas again in the climactic ninth. Although Dimitrenko beat the count, referee Al Huggins stepped in and waved the bout to a conclusion after an elapsed time of one minute, 56 seconds, to the displeasure of many of the 2,543 spectators in attendance as well as Dimitrenko, who vainly argued that he was fighting back and the stoppage was premature.

    “I was in the fight,” complained Dimitrenko, 36, who held advantages of four inches in height and 32 pounds over the 33-year-old, more-sculpted Jennings. “I wanted to continue. I don’t know why the referee stopped it.”

    All signs, however, pointed to the ending being the same had Huggins delayed a bit before stepping in. After Dimitrenko sent a surprised Jennings onto one knee with an overhand right in the fourth round, it was if a message had been sent and received by the Philadelphian and his trainer, John David Jackson, that it might be time to ratchet up the pressure to thwart any possibility of an upset being sprung.

    “I was prepared for a tough 12 rounds,” Jennings (24-2, 14 KOs) allowed. “I did what I had to do. I was in great shape. He’s a big dude, and he’s not as slow as I thought. I made adjustments and got the job done.”

    The long odds against Dimitrenko (41-4, 26 KOs) might have owed in part to the fact that the card was loaded with Philly-area fighters, all of whom seemed to bring their own cheering sections of fans who no doubt laid down some wagers in the casino’s newly opened sports book. In addition to Jennings and Hart (25-1, 21 KOs), who dismissed Mike Gavronski (24-3-1, 15 KOs) in three one-sided rounds, other winners included Philly bantamweight Christian Carto (16-0, 11 KOs), Camden, N.J., lightweight Jason Sosa (21-3-4, 15 KOs), Allentown, Pa., lightweight Joseph Adorno (9-0, 9 KOs) and Atlantic City super welterweight homeboy Thomas “Cornflake” LaManna (26-2-1, 9 KOs). In the top non-televised undercard bout, but one that was available via the ESPN+ app, 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson (8-0, 4 KOs), from Newark, N.J., played it safe in pitching a dull eight-round shutout at Mexico’s Carlos Ruiz (16-5-2, 6 KOs).

    Top Rank has down-the-road hopes for Jennings, who came away not only with Dimitrenko’s IBF International championship but also the vacant NABO title. But those fringe belts are worth little except maybe to hold Jennings’ pants up. What Jennings seeks is another shot at a widely recognized world title, his only previous bid for such coming on a unanimous-decision loss to IBF/WBA/WBO champ Wladimir Klitschko on April 25, 2015. Some would say he had a second crack at the big prize, losing to Luis Ortiz on a seventh-round TKO eight months after his points loss to Klitschko, but that was for an “interim” world title from the shameless WBA, which dispenses bejeweled belts as if they were gumballs from a convenience-store machine.

    To hear Jackson tell it, Jennings might need another three or four “learning-experience” bouts against an increasingly higher caliber of opposition before he is fully primed to test himself against the division’s best of the best, the current kings of the heavyweight ring IBF/WBA/WBO champ Anthony Joshua and WBC ruler Deontay Wilder. Jackson had said that he hoped Jennings would display a more effective inside game against Dimitrenko, and that exclamation-point uppercut – a weapon best utilized at close quarters – suggests another passing mark.

    Punch statistics compiled by CompuBox, never the most accurate gauge of what transpires inside the ropes, were conclusive enough as Jennings found the target on 122 of 284, an impressive 43 percent, with Dimitrenko landing just 47 of 256, or 18.4 percent.

    “In the fifth and sixth I had to grab the momentum back,” Jennings said. “I sensed him tiring. I didn’t get a chance to counter the way I wanted to, but I think tonight I (would have) beat Ortiz.”

    Hart would not appear to require any more learning experiences to get what he most seeks, which is a rematch with the only man to defeat him, WBO 168-pound champ Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (38-0, 25 KOs), who won a close unanimous decision on Sept. 22, 2017. Since both Hart and Ramirez are promoted by Top Rank, and Hart is already ranked No. 1 by the WBO, a do-over would seem to be in order, but Hart claims the champion is intentionally dragging his feet.

    “That’s who I want,” Hart said when asked if he is targeting Ramirez. “Give me a chance to redeem myself. He’s talking about moving up to 175. Why? I’m right here! Come on, man. Stop with the excuses. I’m right here in front of you.”

    Also in front of Hart, but not for long, was Gavronski, a 32-year-old from Tacoma, Wash., whose impressive record looks better on paper than it did in the ring. After Hart wobbled Gavronski with an overhand right in the opening round of the scheduled 10-rounder, the outcome was not so much a matter of “if” as “when.”

    “When I looked at his eyes after the first knockdowns (of two, both coming in the third round), he got real scared,” Hart assessed. “He started holding, grabbing. He was fighting for survival.

    “After that first round, when I hurt him, he wasn’t committing to any of his punches. That’s why I was walking straight to him. I was, like, `C’mon, fight!’ When I hit a guy, his whole reaction changes.”

    Arguably the most entertaining bouts, in terms of two-way action, were Carto’s eight-round unanimous decision over 35-year-old Mexican Javier Gallo (25-16-1, 13 KOs), who took everything the more talented winner threw at him and tossed some right back at him. In the walkout bout, Sosa got nearly as good as he got from uppercut-tossing Puerto Rican Reynaldo Blanco (14-5, 8 KOs), but the two knockdowns Sosa registered in the eighth and final round eliminated whatever suspense might have been on the scorecards through seven.

    In other bouts, Toronto, Canada-based Ukrainian heavyweight Oleksandr Teslenko (14-0, 11 KOs) floored Avery Gibson (9-9-4, 3 KOs) in the first round en route to a clinch-filled six-round unanimous decision; Adorno needed only 99 seconds to blast out Agustine Mauras (6-5-3, 3 KOs) in the first round, and LaManna notched an eight-round UD over the willing Matthew Strode (25-7, 9 KOs), of Marion, S.C.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel



  • #2
    Terrible call by referee on stoppage. Had his mind made up. SAD

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