By Jake Donovan
Bryant Jennings did his best to slow action down to a crawl and keep Oscar Rivas off rhythm. Eventually, the dam was going to break.
A late surge by the unbeaten Colombia-born, Canada-based heavyweight finally got through to Jennings, scoring a knockdown and finishing off the veteran contender in the 12th and final round of their ESPN+ main event Friday evening at Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York.
How the fight ended was in stark contrast to the slow-paced boxing match that broke out in the first half of the contest. Jennings dictated the action, or perhaps lack thereof to the naked eye. The strategy was effective, as Rivas did his best to work his way inside but was limited to following the Philadelphia-based heavyweight around the ring.
It was a struggle for about six rounds, but not without Rivas at least leaving his mark on the scorecards. Jennings—who rebounded from back-to-back losses to Wladimir Klitschko and Luis Ortiz in 2015 to win five straight since signing with Top Rank 17 months ago—appeared to be in control, but at no point enjoyed a lead so overwhelming that he could coast down the stretch.
“I figured out, once I landed my left hook rather than my right hand I was able to hurt him,” Rivas said of the mid-fight strategy that turned things around.
Once Rivas seized control, Jennings would only look worse for the wear. The heavyweights enjoyed a nice exchange towards the end of round seven, but any power game was going to favor the unbeaten Rivas, who knew how far to push himself in order to achieve victory.
“I was close to death when I was training at home,” Rivas admitted after the fight. “Marc (Ramsey, Rivas’ head trainer) reminded me of how hard I climbed that mountain, and that’s how I was able to do it.”
The second half rally by Rivas was enough to pull him ahead on two of the three scorecards—106-103 and 105-104—heading into the 12th and final round. Jennings had a 106-103 lead on the dissenting card, but the judges weren’t needed in the end.
A blitzing attack by Rivas to start the 12th left Jennings pinned in a corner. The punches kept coming until he was left defenseless and willed to the canvas. The former heavyweight title challenger barely beat the count but didn’t appear to be fit to fight much longer.
“I wasn’t going to let up until I got my victory,” noted Rivas (26-0, 17KOs) who pinned Jennings along the ropes and unloaded with a fusillade of head shots until forcing referee Gary Rosato to stop the contest.
The official time was 0:54 of the 12th and final round.
“Of course I’m disappointed. But it is what it is,” said a dejected Jennings, who snaps a five-fight win streak as he falls to 24-3 (14KOs). “I’m my own man, this here is a stepping stone for me. I’m not really phased by any of this. It just is what it is.”