By Jake Donovan
Bryant Jennings ends the year the same way it began for him - with a news-breaking win on NBC Sports Network Fight Night series in his Philly hometown.
The unbeaten heavyweight capped a brilliant 2012 campaign in highlight reel fashion, drilling Bowie Tupou in five rounds Saturday evening at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA.
Jennings hardly had an easy go of things in the contest. The rising prospect was in trouble early on and lucky to have not been called for a third round knockdown. Tupou connected with a sweeping right hand that caught Jennings on his left temple.
The referee waved it off, insisting it was a slip. To his credit, Jennings even admitted that what appeared to be true... was in fact the truth.
"I think he hit the crap out of me, right on top of the head," Jennings revealed afterward.
Knockdown or not, Jennings knew he had a fight on his hand - and acted accordingly.
Tupou awoke a sleeping giant, as he would soon find out in round four. Jennings went on the attack and floored the Los Angeles-based Tongan, the first of two times such would occur in the fight.
The second knockdown came one round later. Jennings started the fight-ending rally with a left hook to the body, followed by three shots upstairs. The finishing blow was a picture perfect right uppercut, putting Tupou down and out.
The official time was 1:37 of round five.
Jennings improves to 16-0 (8KO) with the win, his fifth in 2012. Four of his five wins came on the NBC Sports Network Fight Night series, with tonight's win and his first of the year serving as bookmarks for its first season.
Tupou suffers his second straight stoppage loss, falling to 22-3 (16KO).
NBC Sports will remain involved in the boxing business in 2013. Whether or not Jennings will outgrow the series depends on the type of fights he's able to secure in the next 12 months.
One opponent frequently mentioned is fellow unbeaten American heavyweight Deontay Wilder. The fight is on Jennings' radar... but just not in the near future.
"Deontay is good, I can't take that away from him. But right now, it's just not the right fight," Jennings insists. "I'm on the way up, he's on the way up. Let's meet at the top of the hill."
With more campaigns like the one he enjoyed in 2012, Jennings is well on his way to that destination.
Local featherweight Eric Hunter scored a minor upset with a 10-round decision over previously unbeaten Jerry Belmontes.
Scores were 99-91, 99-90 and 97-92 for Hunter, who picks up his second win since returning to the ring this past summer.
Saturday's win over Belmontes is by far the most significant of his career. Hunter set the tone early on, jumping out to an early lead and forcing Belmontes to fight from behind for the remainder of the fight.
Belmontes surged in the middle rounds but was warned by his corner to finish strong if he wanted to retain his unbeaten record. That didn't happen, as he heads home to Corpus Christi, TX with the first loss of his career in falling to 17-1 (5KO).
Hunter improves to 17-2 (9KO). The Philly native took a break from the sport after an 8th round disqualification loss to Luis Franco two years ago, before returning to the ring this past July. The win over Belmontes puts his career back on the map.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: