Boxing / Sports

Lean and mean vegetarian heavyweight Bryant Jennings one step away from title bout

Bryant Jennings said his brother likes to tease him, saying the North Philadelphia heavyweight is "tight" with his money.

The boxer -- who fights Saturday night on HBO at Madison Square Garden -- counters that he shops at organic, high-end grocery store Whole Foods.

"And I'm always in Whole Foods. So I can't be that tight," Jennings said. "You get two bags and it's like $80."

His two-hour grocery trips are a part of Jennings' recent lifestyle change. Saturday's bout against Mike Perez will be Jennings' second since becoming a vegetarian last year. A win against Perez (20-0-1, 12 knockouts) secures a shot for the World Boxing Council title.

Jennings (18-0, 10 KOs) does not eat meat or drink alcohol. The boxer subbed out dairy milk for almond milk. He eats fruit and vegetables, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and cage-free eggs. He said his decision has allowed him to "think clearer."

"Your body is a temple," Jennings said. "We're down here on Earth and you have full control of your body. It's all in your mind."

The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder said he is the world's best-conditioned heavyweight. He pinched his thighs last week after a workout to show his lack of body fat. His muscle definition is like a bodybuilder's. The 29-year-old ran a nine-mile loop this month around the Schuylkill in 65 minutes.

He used that conditioning in his last fight, as he appeared to grow stronger as the bout wore on. When his opponent, Artur Szpilka, appeared drained and left his body open for attack, Jennings homed in. He knocked his foe down in the sixth round with a vicious left hand to the chest.

"It's not just being a vegan. Nothing is by itself," said his trainer, Fred Jenkins. "It's a combination of everything he does that makes him whole."

People often ask Jennings how he consumes protein since he abstains from meat. Jennings answers by showing them a picture of a massive gorilla sitting in the wild. Underneath, the caption says: "Ask me where I get my protein."

"Gorillas, bulls, some of the strongest animals don't eat meat," Jennings said. "Why should we have to eat meat? There are successful ways of being healthy without eating meat."

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