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Boxing / Sports

After handing Poland's Szpilka first loss, Jennings says he can be even better

NEW YORK -- A Polish television reporter and cameraman cornered Bryant Jennings outside his locker room late Saturday night and the North Philadelphia heavyweight saw his chance to tap into a more global audience.

He had broken the spirit of a pro-Polish crowd 20 minutes earlier with a dominant 10th-round technical knockout of Poland's Artur Szpilka at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden. Jennings floored Szpilka in the final round.

But Jennings said the performance was not the best he had to offer.

"Szpilka just fought the best heavyweight in the world," Jennings (18-0, 10 knockouts) told the Polish newsman. "He kind of made me not look like the best, because it was very awkward and sloppy." It is his confidence that allowed Jennings to flip the script after Szpilka was less aggressive than he expected. He and his trainer, Fred Jenkins, expected the 24-year-old Polish fighter to "try to literally knock me out," Jennings said.

Instead, Szpilka stayed defensive and forced Jennings to be patient with his attack. By the fifth round, Jennings found his way in and began targeting his foe with power punches. According to Compubox, Jennings connected on 84 more power punches than Szpilka.

He crushed Szpilka (16-1) with a left hook to the stomach in the sixth round and the boxer stayed still for a moment before crumbling to one knee. Jennings remained in control, pressing Szpilka before finally scoring the knockout.

"I was expecting him to be the aggressor," Jennings said. "Fight fire with fire. We both collide, he's coming at me, I'm coming at him. And we just sit there and trade shots. But it didn't really happen that way." The TKO came on a critical stage, as it was Jennings' first fight on HBO. It was his first match after a seven-month layoff. The impressive showing will likely keep Jennings on premium television and make him a possible challenger for a world title.

Until then, next for the self-proclaimed "best heavyweight in the world" may be a match with Mike Perez or Carlos Takam. The two heavyweight contenders fought to a draw earlier this month.

"I've got to let it soak all in," Jennings said. He later added: "I'm still humble, I still know where I stand. I do think I'm one of the best, but they haven't really seen anything yet."

(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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