SYRACUSE, N.Y - Bryant Jennings stood and listened, 12 rounds of sweat dripping off him, as the Madison Square Garden ring announcer put his career's ascension on hold.
"And still unified heavyweight champion of the world," the announcer said, "the Steel Hammer, Wladimir Klitschko."
Klitschko held up two belts, the crowd went crazy and Jennings was left the bout on April 25 with his first career loss and a missed chance at joining the elite class of the heavyweight division. But the 31-year-old North Philadelphia native doesn't see the loss as a step back. Instead, Jennings (19-1, 10 KOs) thinks he showed he can fight, and beat, any heavyweight, even if he was on the wrong end of the decision.
His first chance to prove that comes Saturday against unbeaten Luis Ortiz (23-0, 20 KOs) in a WBA interim heavyweight championship bout at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Syracuse. It is the main event of a five-fight card that will be televised live on HBO. Ortiz's promoter said Thursday that is the 36-year-old's "Super Bowl." Jennings is looking to use it as a springboard to even bigger opportunities.
"There is definitely a big picture here, definitely an aspect that this could mean a lot for my career," Jennings said Thursday. "But you can't look at the picture until it's complete, and that will be when my career is over. So right now I am just focused on this one and beating Luis."
Ortiz fought his last fight, a three-round knockout in October, at 261 pounds. Jennings fought Klitschko at 241 and expects the weight difference to be very similar for Saturday's fight. But Jennings was quick to note that Ortiz hasn't fought 12 rounds in his professional career and hasn't gone more than four since Feb. 10, 2012, when he went seven.
Jennings added that big punchers like Ortiz tend to be impatient. His goal is to test the Cuban's resolve and make him fight into the late rounds. Then the rest, he's confident, will take care of itself.