By Keith Idec
Bryant Jennings didn’t make this transatlantic trip just to collect a check.
The veteran heavyweight from Philadelphia accepted his fight against hard-hitting Joe Joyce because he knows a win would re-establish him within the division. Joyce acknowledged Wednesday during a press conference in London that Jennings is the best opponent he’ll have faced in 10 professional fights.
The 6-feet-6, 260-pound Joyce still is a 5-1 favorite, but the experienced Jennings warned the 2016 Olympic silver medalist that he is in for a tougher fight than he expects Saturday night at O2 Arena.
“You set out to win every single time,” Jennings said. “Every single time you set out to win. Nobody goes out and says, ‘OK, let me go lay down.’ That ain’t in my blood. You know, it’s not in my DNA – period, point blank. So, laying down, that’s just something I can’t comprehend at all.”
The 34-year-old Jennings (24-3, 14 KOs) was stopped by Colombia’s Oscar Rivas (26-0, 18 KOs) in the 12th round of his last fight, January 18 at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. He never considered coming back in an easier fight than the one he accepted with Joyce (9-0, 9 KOs).
“I always wanted the tougher or toughest fights,” said Jennings, whose previous losses came against Wladimir Klitschko and Luis Ortiz. “That way, I’m not wasting my time. I understand having fights coming off of layoffs. I understand those type of fights, but when it’s time, let’s make it meaningful. You know, because win or lose, if you lose, it’s like, ‘OK. He lost to this guy. This guy, ugh, it’d kind of a good loss.’ And when I started boxing, I wanted to be able to know that I belong here. So, throughout my career, since day one, I said, ‘I want the toughest guy.’ Because if I don’t belong here, let me know right now. Don’t waste my time.”
England’s Joyce, 33, stopped Russia’s Alexander Ustinov (34-4, 25 KOs) in the third round of his last bout, May 18 in Stevenage, England.
“I’m ready,” Joyce said. “I’ve had a good camp. You know, I’ve been putting in the work and incorporating what [trainer] Adam Booth’s been teaching me, and the team. And I feel that I’m ready for whoever and I’m really excited because it’s gonna be such a big fight, against a very credible opponent, Bryant Jennings. He’s very experienced and he’s up for the challenge.”
BT Sport will televise the Joyce-Jennings fight in the United Kingdom as part of the Daniel Dubois-Nathan Gorman undercard (7:30 p.m. BST). ESPN+ will stream the Joyce-Jennings and Dubois-Gorman matches live in the United States (2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 p.m. PT).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.