There's no denying the vast experience gap challenger Bryant Jennings faces against 39-year-old heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. Until he began his professional boxing career five years ago at the age of 25, Jennings (19-0, 10 KOs) hadn't even heard of Klitschko (63-3, 53 KOs), who won his first world title 15 years ago and now holds five belts.
But Jennings has a pragmatic answer for the experience deficit. "I think I'm better than the majority of the experienced fighters," Jennings said. "You can point out an experienced fighter that doesn't have as much talent as me."
Promoter Gary Shaw noted that Jennings is no stranger to Madison Square Garden, having fought there three times, including his split-decision win over Mike Perez last July that positioned him to fight Klitschko. "He knows what he's walking into," Shaw said. "He's not standing outside looking at the banner with his name on it and going 'Oh, my God, that's me.' "
With a laugh, Jennings added, "I may take a selfie in front of it, but hey, he's right."
Making it to the MSG marquee on Seventh Avenue opposite Klitschko in just five years is a remarkable achievement for Jennings, who reckons he was working in Philadelphia as a janitor for a company called American Building Maintenance when Klitschko suffered his last loss to Lamon Brewster in 2004.
"No, I had no clue who he was," Jennings said. "That's no disrespect to him. I wasn't into boxing. I came from the inner city, hip-hop urban point of view . . . At 19, I was living alone and working at ABM. I was the best housekeeper they ever had. We had eight hours to do a day, and I'd get my work done in an hour and a half."
That company was located in the Federal Reserve Bank building in Philadelphia, where Jennings subsequently went to work in building maintenance. He wasn't able to devote himself fully to boxing until the Klitschko fight.
The notion of Jennings pulling an upset against Klitschko, who has made 18 straight defenses and shows no sign of slowing down, challenges the imagination. But when asked what might give him the edge, Jennings said, "My edge is youth. You can't deny that. Speed is an edge. These things are obvious."
To which Shaw added, "He's the best pure athlete that Klitschko has ever fought in his career. I believe Jennings could have been a linebacker in the NFL or anything he wanted to be as an athlete. Klitschko is going to be fighting a really great athlete."
In Jennings' imagination, most scenarios end with his hands raised in victory. "Sometimes, you think, 'What if [something goes wrong]?' " he admitted. "Immediately, I change the channel in my mind. There's none of that 'What if?' I always come out victorious."