Finally, after near a decade of corpulent lethargy, the first of America’s big men this year will actively look to crack what used to be their native born birthright as heavyweight contenders and champions starting Saturday, January 25th at Madison Square Garden in New York. Rising fringe contender American Bryant “By-By” Jennings, 17-0, 9 KO goes against Polish rival Arthur “The Pin” Szpilka, 16-0, 12 KO in a 10 round battle of closely matched undefeated records.
If nothing else their ring aliases will breathe a some fresh air into the run of the mill copy cats Cobra, Hitman, and other standard fearsome aliases that seldom match the fighters. They’re also matched well by size with Szpilka at 6-3, 230+plus to Jennings 6-2, 220+plus. Szpilka reach not noted in boxrec, but certainly Jennings’ listed reach of 84″ is in the very highest range of heavyweights, so he’ll have that significant advantage, but only if he knows how to make use of it. Jennings is also at the traditional peak age at 29 years, so he needs to move fast to develop for a title shot within a couple of years. Szpilka is 24 years, just now entering the traditional prime years and and what a gig he landed on HBO. Not bad for a wayward Polish tough only recruited to boxing after a coach noticed his form in a brawl of soccer fans. Form good enough to land him an 18 month incarceration.
Significantly Szpilka is also a southpaw with a diverse range of styles. He can box upright or in a free flow, or brawl as he showed against Mike Mollo in a pair of knock down, drag out classics. Oddly enough I’ve seen less of Jennings who has been on NBC broadcasts, but he seems like the classic American boxer/puncher mold maybe with a touch of Philly dark arts he may use. Also significant after his booming year of 2012 with five fights, Jennings only fought once in 2013 and seems to have realigned with a new promoter, broadcaster, manager, and trainer. How that works for him is unknown, but this fight looks very competitive on paper. I’d favor Szpilka slightly as a fighter since he’s already been mixed into the American scene against slightly stiffer competition overall, but it goes without saying that Jennings is the home money fighter for this nontitle 10 round bout.
I’d imagine HBO hopes to leverage Jennings for a subsequent American world title challenge they can broadcast. The Jennings team has also arranged a top five ranking in both the WBC an WBA if proof is needed about how highly he’s regarded by the suits. If he has any fans in Philadelphia, it’s only a quick skip over to New York, however Polish fans usually outnumber Americans at these types of venues. Szpilka should have plenty of moral support if he can clear Homeland Security after a snafu sent him packing back to Poland to secure more papers. Be a shame if Homeland Security killed what could prove to be the most important American heavyweight fight of the year, but such are the signs of the despairing times in the American big man division now desperate for a resurgence.
The anchor fight of the HBO broadcast also reflect a sign of the times featuring two half sized, very game and skilled fighters, undefeated two-division world champion Mikey Garcia (33-0, 28 KO) defending his WBO junior lightweight title against current #1 contender Juan Carlos “Mini” Burgos (30-1-2, 20 KO).
The big man war has a chance to go head to head against the little man war for the best fight of the night, a perfect duke’em up session for die hards. Might even see an early contender for fight of the year, so don’t be shy now. Best two fights of the month of January me thinks.