Battle-tested title contenders Light Heavyweight Badou Jack and Heavyweight Bryant Jennings both had major setbacks this past weekend.
Who’s still in pain?
A couple of widely respected veterans entered this past weekend facing opponents in some intriguing matchups.
In the co-feature of this past Saturday’s Showtime PPV Manny Pacquiao vs Adrien Broner , former two-division champion Badou Jack (22-2-3, 13 KOs) faced Marcus Browne (23-0, 16 KOs) for the Interim WBA Light Heavyweight belt.
The night before on the ESPN+, at Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York, former world title challenger Bryant “B.Y.” Jennings (24-3, 14 KOs) took on lesser-known unbeaten Heavyweight contender Oscar Rivas (26-0, 18 KOs).
Things could not have gone worst for Jack and Jennings.
Jennings’ 12th round stoppage abruptly brought a two year climb back to the division’s summit to a screeching halt. Fellow world title challenger Luis Ortiz stopped Jennings via seventh round technical knockout at Turning Stone back in December 2015. The 34-year old Philadelphia native – the No. 2-ranked WBO Heavyweight – could have possibly been on the cusp of a 7-figure payday had he extended his five-fight win streak with a defeat of Rivas.
Current WBO champion Anthony Joshua is looking for an opponent for his April 13 date at Wembley Stadium, but Rivas should not worry about pricing international fares for a springtime flight from Montreal to the UK.
Jack squandered a shot to face either WBA champion Dmitry Bivol, or the division’s newly crowned WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk. Perhaps more painful than the lost opportunity for another title was the reported five-inch gash in the middle of Jack’s forehead. The injury further adds to the Swedish fighter’s reputation as one of the sport’s toughest fighters, as he went the distance after sustaining the cut in a seventh-round accidental clash of heads.
Both situations are unfortunate, but neither represent anything out of the norm for a weekend of world-class boxing. Jack’s fight versus the 28-year old 2012 Olympian from Staten Island native ended in unexpectedly wide cards of 119-108, 117-110, 116-111. Browne’s experience on this level had many leaning towards Jack and his resilience demonstrated in quite a few wars the past couple of years.
As for Jennings, Rivas was more of an unknown with the fight marking his first appearance in the U.S. since a bout nearly four years ago in Shelton, Washington. However, he was an athletic looking, fit Heavyweight with nearly a 70 percent KO ratio. Entering the 12th round, Jennings appeared to fight with little urgency, possibly thinking he could kneel with the ball over the final minute – and await the potential big call. Rivas’ spirited TKO removed any doubt, but the Canadian was actually up 103-106, 106-103, and 105-104 before closing the show.
The boxing ring continues to be one of sports’ coldest and unforgiving territories in terms of being No Country for No Old Men. Jack, although a year older, may work himself back into another title shot. His loss was by decision and the legend of his fight’s gore should be a positive in putting together a fight in a division where the money is dwarfed by the stakes of the Heavyweight division. Jennings’ sentiments after the fight seemed to indicate that he firmly grasps the fact that his mountain might have done what many folks tend to pray for – it moved (and far away).
Jennings’ thoughts on the matter were laconic: “It is what it is.”
Featured image by Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions