VERONA, N.Y. - Bryant Jennings was flat on the canvas for four seconds Saturday night, then pushed himself up onto two wobbly legs.
Before referee Dick Pakozdi started the fight again, the Philadelphian looked around to see whether he could find a clock. Jennings wanted to know how much time was left in the seventh round. He wanted to know whether, after being knocked down by a vicious uppercut, he could make it to the bell and still have a chance at beating Luis Ortiz and ascending to the top of the heavyweight division.
Jennings never located the clock. Nor did he ever get a chance to push Ortiz past the seventh. Seconds after Jennings got to his feet, Ortiz drove him into the ropes and a left hook sealed a technical knockout at Turning Stone Resort Casino. Ortiz celebrated his 21st knockout and a 24-0 record. Jennings was left stumbling in the middle of the ring, blood filling his mouth, already lamenting a missed opportunity.
"It just wasn't my night," said Jennings, 31.
After going 12 rounds and suffering the first loss of his career to Wladimir Klitschko in April, Jennings (19-2, 10 KOs) thought he proved he could beat any heavyweight. The first step was beating Ortiz, a native of Cuba who hadn't fought more than four rounds since February 2012 and still hasn't gone 12 rounds in his professional career.
But Jennings never fully recovered from a bad first round and never scaled back his pressure against Ortiz's counterpunches.
"I was fighting pressure against pedigree," Jennings said after the fight. ". . . And tonight his experience showed."
Thirty minutes after the knockout, Jennings sat and answered questions with his usual charisma. He blamed himself for not making the right adjustments. He had no argument with the fight's being stopped.
Then Ortiz walked into the room with 15 giddy supporters in tow. When he sat down three seats away from Jennings, the questions went from Jennings' loss to Ortiz's next fight. Names were thrown at the 36-year-old: Klitschko. Tyson Fury. Deontay Wilder.
Jennings stared into his iPhone, nodded to himself, and listened to Ortiz talk about the path he dreams of going down.
"It's part of the game," Jennings said. "I'm a fighter, I'm from Philly, and this is what I do. I'll be back."