PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                     December 08, 2012


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By John DiSanto
Photos by Gary Purfield


Hometown heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings closed out his breakthrough year in style Saturday night with a monumental knockout of Tongan tough guy Bowie Tupou in a nationally televised main event from Temple University's McGonigle Hall. Jennings defended his USBA heavyweight crown, probably improved his #5 IBF world ranking, and kept his career ascension going strong, all on his North Philly turf in front of his growing fan base. The end of the fight came courtesy of a booming right uppercut that felled the bigger Tupou flat on his back. At first it did not appear that he would even attempt to beat the count, but sure enough, Tupou made it to his feet a moment before referee Blair Talmadge reached ten. Nonetheless, Talmadge called an end to the fight at 1:37 of round five.

The bout started like most heavyweight contests do, with sparse action and much feeling out. Tupou, bigger and heavier, stalked Jennings who moved around the ring on his toes, perhaps looking for the right angle or opening to attack.  Or maybe he was sending the message that he is no plodding heavyweight. Somewhere along the way, Jennings scored with a hard right, while Tupou landed a single hard body blow.

Jennings began to open up in the second, landing a little more, but still kept moving in circles. Tupou ripped another short right to the body, but landed little else. Jennings closed the round with a right uppercut that landed, and foreshadowed what would come a few rounds later. 

In round three, the tables turned in an instant. While Jennings danced backward, Tupou arched a looping  right bomb that caught Jennings going back. The punch clubbed Jennings on the head and sent him to the floor. Referee Talmadge called the incident a slip, but he couldn't wave off the sudden panic that rolled through McGonigle Hall. Jennings may have been off balance when he got hit, but it was the sweeping punch that put him down. However Jennings himself quieted the fears of all onlookers by climbing immediately to his feet, and resuming the fight without any signs of damage. Tupou pressed the action, but could not capitalize on his big punch.

Apparently the brief episode served as an alarm clock for Jennings, as he began the fourth more aggressively and with a clear desire to regain control of the bout. He landed a hard left hook on Tupou's jaw, but Tupou fought back hard. The fight got reckless with both men punching and pushing the other throughout the round.

The rugged action resumed in round five with both big men fighting for the advantage. Finally as Jennings maneuvered Tupou along the ropes, he thumped his foe with a left hook and then that rocket of a right uppercut took off. Jennings launched the final blow straight up and under Tupou's guard. It landed hard on Tupou's chin and made his knees buckle. Immediately Tupou slammed to the canvas, and lying flat on his back, stared straight up with a grimace on his face. He didn't move for the better part of the count, but then gamely rose to his feet. However the referee prevented him from going on.

The victory ended Jennings' big year that saw him go from a 6-round prospect to a main event fighter with serious credentials. His #5 ranking is likely to edge up a notch the next time the ratings are released. He also raised his record to 16-0 (8 KOs) with the effort, and brought his knockout percentage up to 50%. Clearly the is a fighter coming into his own, honing his skills and building his confidence. 2013 should be interesting as Jennings gets closer and closer to a world title opportunity.

The loss was the second in a row for Tupou, 22-3 (26 KOs), who came to fight but went out on his shield.

The fight was the main event of the latest edition on NBC Sports Network's Fight Night boxing series. Jennings began his year on the network, in the very first Fight Night offering. Five fights later (four on the network), his life and career are in a very different place with much more to come.

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John DiSanto - North Philly - December 08, 2012

Photos by Gary Purfield