By Jake Donovan
Once upon a time, the old adage was that if there was a good heavyweight fight to make, you simply make it. Such occasions are few and far between these days, but HBO has one on tap for this evening as unbeaten prospects Bryant Jennings and Artur Szpilka square off in a scheduled 10-round affair.
The bout serves as the televised chief support to the 130 lb. title fight between unbeaten Mikey Garcia and top contender Juan Carlos Burgos. Both fights air live on HBO from Madison Square Garden Theatre in New York City.
Jennings (17-0, 9KO) was a prospect on the rise thanks to a breakout 2012 campaign, but saw his career come to a grinding halt over the last 12 months. The Philly heavyweight failed to see eye-to-eye with co-promoters Main Events and Peltz Boxing, only fighting once on the year before getting out of his contract and resurfacing under Gary Shaw’s promotional banner.
Tonight’s bout marks his first piece of ring action since last June.
Szpilka (16-0, 12KO) was far more active in 2013, chief among his year a pair of thrilling come-from-behind knockouts over Mike Mollo. However, the Polish heavyweight nearly didn’t make it to fight night, as he was turned around by Homeland Security when arriving at the airport in Chicago, attempting to travel from Poland to New York.
The issue was resolved, but not before Szpilka wound up having to travel to and from Poland twice in less than a week before finally making it to New York City in time for fight week.
Will both heavyweights be able to bring their best stuff, or will pending ring rust or jet lag play a factor in tonight’s clash? Given all of the intangibles, who will manage to rise to the occasion?
Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes the heavyweight action will go down.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS – BRYANT JENNINGS vs. ARTUR SZPILKA
“By-By takes it in his first fight at the Garden.”
- Damien Acevedo (Jennings by decision)
“Jennings is the faster, more athletic fighter and that should overcome the Pol's advantage in power. Spzilka has hit the canvas before abc a late round stoppage is very possible.”
- Ryan Burton (Jennings UD)
“The fight is Jennings’ to lose, but my concerns are ring rust and his being fed weak opposition the moment he arrived as a prospect to watch. The latter isn’t necessarily his fault, but he still comes into this fight a bit cold. Szpilka will provide some anxious moments, but his defense and chin are too questionable to hold up over the long haul.”
- Jake Donovan (Jennings TKO8)
“While what you see in Jennings does not necessarily stand out, he does everything well and it's been enough to get him to a point where we will see him tested going forward starting will Spzilka. Jennings might face a little adversity in this but I do see him being up to the task and hanging on to a victory.”
- Ernest Gabion (Jennings UD)
“Jennings would be a favourite no matter what but now jetlag plays a part as well. Travelling back and forth from the US to Poland twice a week before a big fight just isn´t any good.”
- Per Ake Persson (Jennings by late TKO or decision)
“Szpilka is fun to watch but Jennings looks like a potential comer. Too quick, too skilled for the wide open brawler in front of him.”
- Cliff Rold (Jennings by decision)
“Battles of undefeated fighters are always intriguing. I like what I've seen from Jennings and while he doesn't pack a punch, he does carry a good skill set with him. I can see Szpilka giving Jennings a scary moment due to his power but Jennings should out last and outbox his opponent.”
- Luis Sandoval (Jennings UD)
“Jennings is the thing, while Szpilka, twice exposed as a hypejob against veteran brawler Mollo, is not. He is brave, flamboyant but he lacks, what Bryant has - skills. And, yes, the Pole isn't a hard puncher. He will be stopped after a prolonged bloody bath with a couple of knockdowns. Jab and sidesteps will make Bryant's early rounds, then he will impose a beating with a use of uppercuts.”
- Alexey Sukachev (Jennings TKO7)
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox