Posted by George Hanson., Jr Esq. on Jan 20, 2014
Media Day— Kevlar, Peanut Jacket and The Alien, Jennings, Hart & Hopkins

Media Day— Kevlar, Peanut Jacket and The Alien, Jennings, Hart & Hopkins

The Mouthpiece
By: George H. Hanson Jr., Esq.| January 15, 2014
Photos by Darryl Cobb Jr. (www.dcobbjr.com)

Philadelphia gained notoriety as the boxing capital of the world long before heavyweight contender Bryant “By-By” Jennings and super-middleweight phenom Jesse “Hard Work” Hart ever laced on a pair of gloves. Thus, the media descended on the Joe Hands Boxing Gym at noon for the media day workout of the two stable mates who on January 25th will grace the squared circle of Madison Square Garden on the undercard of HBO’s Boxing After Dark. The main event features WBO junior-lightweight champion Mikey Garcia versus Juan Carlos Burgos. I stood with my back against the wall within earshot basking in the moment— taking it all in— as microphones and recorders were pointed in Jennings direction as he held court in the middle of the gym supremely confident. He handled the media like a seasoned pro—jabbing, countering using speed, precision and wisdom to deliver memorable remarks.

Bryant “By-By” Jennings working out (Photo Darryl Cobb Jr.)

Bryant “By-By” Jennings working out (Photo Darryl Cobb Jr.)

Jennings (17 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 9 kos) with only one fight in 2013 will square off against Poland’s undefeated Artur Szpilka (16 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 12 kos) who fought four times last year. However, despite the disparity in recent activity, it is difficult for me to envision Szpilka making it out of this scheduled ten-rounder upright with his senses intact. In his last bout on August 16th against Mike Mollo, the Pole tasted the canvas in the third round and was in dire straits before scoring a sensational technical knockout in the fifth stanza. Szpilka’s lack of mobility and porous defense—Stevie Wonder can’t miss him with a right hand—will lead to his devastating demise when Jennings detonates on his cranium with rapid fluidity. I would temper my prognostication if the New York Boxing Commissioner in an act of clemency and compassion permits Szpilka to don a helmet and Kevlar vest/body armor for his HBO debut. It is only fair that he is allowed to purchase collision insurance from Geico.

Just as a cheetah is born aerodynamically fit for speed with the ability to accelerate from zero to 40 mph in three strides reaching full speed at 70 mph in seconds, Jesse “Hard Work” Hart came into the world with the sweet science coursing through his veins. His father, Philadelphia middleweight legend Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, swept over the middleweight division in the 70’s— his gale force winds blowing through the competition— leaving his first 19 opponents hapless and unable to hear the final bell—seven of them in the first round.

The apple fell right under the tree because similar to dad; standing 6 feet 3 inches, Jesse Hart is a lean, mean fighting machine with enough dynamite in both hands to level a city block. Hart faces Derrick “Superman” Findley (20 wins – 11 losses – 1 draw – 13 kos) of Gary, Indiana in a scheduled six-rounder. Listen folks, I don’t mean to disparage Findley—I am sure he is a nice man and a formidable fighter. But, how is he going to survive against Hart since it is illegal to bring a gun into a boxing match? If Findley makes it out of the first round, I would be flabbergasted! A man wearing a peanut jacket amongst a herd of elephants has a better chance of remaining unscathed than Findley avoiding hitting the canvas!

  Jesse “Hard Work” Hart (Photo: Darryl Cobb Jr.)

Jesse “Hard Work” Hart (Photo: Darryl Cobb Jr.)

“I have only been boxing for five years, this is my destiny,” imparted Jennings. He further added, “I’ve always been an athlete and I came into the game with a six-pack, proper eating habits and dedication.” To say that his rise up the pugilistic ladder has been meteoric is tantamount to proclaiming that Usain Bolt is fast. After a brief amateur career, the former high school linebacker joined the professional ranks on February 26, 2010 with a four-round unanimous decision over Zeferino Albino. He skyrocketed into prominence in only his 13th fight when he stopped former WBO heavyweight champion Siarhea “The White Wolf” Liakhovich (25 wins – 4 losses – 0 draws – 16 kos) in the ninth round in a nationally televised bout on March 24, 2012.

“I am pushing for the knockout, to separate myself from Ward and the guys he lasted with,” responded Hart as he stood, smiling, reveling in the rhetorical melee as the media bombarded him with questions covering a plethora of topics. From the onset Hart felt little or no pressure when he stepped into the boxing gym the son of a Philly boxing legend. This was evident from our first encounter at the start of his amateur career as he embraced his father’s legacy knowing that he would be just as good or even better. Equally important, Cyclone Hart was ecstatic that his son was following in his footsteps—comfortable with his accomplishments—he allowed his son to naturally morph into the fighter ordained by destiny and genetics. The super-middleweight prospect further added, “I love my dad; he paved the way for me. My father is my father at home and my trainer in the gym.”

For over 41 years Fred Jenkins has been forging kids into men and gladiators in the squared circle from his coliseum in the heart of North Philadelphia. I am at a lost for words when I reflect on the number of notable fighters that have emerged from the ABC Recreation Center at 26th and Master Street. Jenkins’ credibility in the boxing community is non-pareil. Thus, if he told me that a duck could pull a truck—I don’t mean to be profane or vulgar, but there is no other way to deliver my point—I would hook the motherf%!&*r up! So, I don’t take it lightly when Jenkins told me that Jennings is special and asserted that, “He is a heavyweight who moves like a lightweight. Most people can’t believe that he moves and punches like that.” Echoing Jenkins sentiments was assistant trainer Julius Goldsmith who added, “He reminds me of Holyfield. He does things that others can’t. I remember him going 17 rounds straight with several guys in the gym and he wasn’t even tired. If he tells you that he ran ten miles, he probably did twenty.”

I stood on the ring apron as Hart shadowboxed in the ring throwing combinations ripping into an imaginary adversary. It is easy to grasp why Bob Arum’s Top Rank signed him to a promotional contract despite the paucity of African-American boxers on its roster. Earlier Hart stated that Arum told him, “You will be a superstar.” The super-middleweight division is talent laden with WBA & WBC champion Andre Ward widely regarded as the best. But, with only one knockout in three years, he is far from spectacular in the eyes of the average fan. Hart on the other hand is a breath of fresh air because he has no problem in “talking the talk and walking the walk.” Reminiscent of the great Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns, he hasn’t had a “feeling out round” in his brief career. The bell rings and Hart is a heat-seeking missile hell-bent on separating opponents from their senses—coasting to a decision win isn’t in his DNA.

There is an adage that you can pay for school, but you can’t buy class. It reverberated through my mind as IBF light-heavyweight champion Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins, celebrating his 49th birthday, walked through the door and made his way to the other side of the gym. With a few members of the press trailing—including long-time Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bernard Fernandez—Hopkins commenced an impromptu press conference. He trains at the Joe Hands Gym so it is only natural for him to make an appearance. But, his agenda could reasonably be interpreted as we would say in colloquial terms, “to steal Jennings’ and Hart’s shine.” Both fighters took it in stride and appeared to be unaffected as Hopkins pulled up his shirt showing his abs while ranting at the top of his voice in the background.

His 49th birthday, The Alien invades Media Day! (Photo  Darryl Cobb Jr.)

His 49th birthday, The Alien invades Media Day! (Photo Darryl Cobb Jr.)

For many of us in Philadelphia, Hopkins is similar to the alcoholic uncle who is always at the family picnic inebriated creating a spectacle. But, we learn tolerance and how to hide the liquor because he is family. Despite his methods, we respect his remarkable accomplishments as he continues to defy the odds while beating Father Time in the process. He understands marketing and remains in our consciousness because you are reading this paragraph and I’m sure he will be included in all the coverage of media day. Touché Executioner/The Alien!“

I am confident, not cocky,” stated Jennings in response to questions about his opponent and the daunting task of fighting on HBO in the legendary venue—Madison Square Garden. “The Garden is the Garden. This fight is just another fight in my progress,” he concluded. Oftentimes reporters ask the most innocuous questions primarily because there is an urge to justify holding a recorder at arms-length. A sliver of history with Jennings and one would already know that after fighting his second bout at The Legendary Blue Horizon in North Philadelphia—he could care less if this bout was on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Baltic Sea. Jennings is focused on securing a shot at one of the heavyweight titles from one of the Klitschkos—venue isn’t an outcome determinant factor. Jennings stable mate, junior-middleweight prospect Fred Jenkins Jr. aptly stated, “He is going to be a legend because he has all the superstar qualities. I am just happy to see him succeed.”

FightkingsglovesHopkins and Danny “Swift’ Garcia are currently the only world boxing champions from Philadelphia. I am not one to prognosticate, pontificate, regurgitate, imitate or even hesitate—so let me get to the point—Jennings and Hart will be joining them soon. According to undefeated lightweight prospect, Damon Allen Jr. who rose through the amateur ranks with Hart, “Jesse is moving at a fast pace. He was born for this.” The same applies to Jennings who is knocking hard at the door to the heavyweight title.

Continue to support the sweet science, and remember, always carry your mouthpiece!

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About George Hanson., Jr Esq.

George Hanson., Jr Esq. has written 106 post in this blog.

Hailing from New Forest, Jamaica, Hanson started boxing as a teenager in Philadelphia under the tutelage of former welterweight contender, Dick Turner. He excelled, capturing four Pennsylvania State Amateur Championships—his last while a junior at Drexel University studying Accounting. According to most who have seen Hanson fight, “He is the best fighter never to have turned professional.”



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