With the win, Jennings will meet the winner of Stiverne-Wilder in the fall (Photo courtesy of HBO Sports).
Ringside Report by John Archibald, Resolution Sports
Two undefeated heavyweights served as the co-main event to Golovkin vs. Geale at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, with the victor earning a WBC title shot against the winner of Bermane Stiverne vs. Deontay Wilder this fall. On the docket, Philadelphia’s Bryant Jennings (19-0, 10 KOs) met Cuban born and Irish transplant Mike Perez (20-1-1, 12 KOs), and the outcome was decided by the slimmest of margins. In fact, an illegal blow in the 12th round was the determining factor in a split decision victory for Jennings, which elevated him to mandatory challenger status in the WBC.
Throughout this 12-frame encounter, Perez received numerous warnings from referee Harvey Dock, and the compiling infractions led to a point reduction in the final stanza that turned what would have been deemed a draw into being a split decision win for Jennings. Midway through the round, the two combatants were being broken up following an exchange on the ropes, and Perez delivered an ill-timed left hand that Dock determined to be too late. The deduction would prove to be critical in the outcome, although it can definitely be argued that it righted what would have become a bad decision. On one card, the 11th and 12th rounds were given to Perez, an undeserved nod from my viewpoint.
In the early rounds, Perez seemed to be getting the better of the exchanges as Jennings looked to paw himself inside with the jab. Perez was also leaving himself very vulnerable, arrogantly walking around the ring with his hands down, and Jennings started to take advantage of the opportunities that were being presented to him, beginning in the fourth frame.
Jennings began having success in the middle rounds when he was employing the Winky Wright guard on the inside, and Perez was really starting to gas out on the other side of the equation. The Philadelphia native intelligently began to deal some body work as his opposition seemed to fade, landing some good shots because of the lazy defense he was seeing.
Throughout this 12-round bout, Perez had his moments, but the always-disciplined Jennings never strayed from his game plan and found his chances as a result.
In the 10th frame, Perez appeared to awaken with a newfound energy, which brought him back into the fight. He began stalking with a stronger intent, and he clearly had his feet back under him. Some good exchanges were the result of the change in events, and the fight truly seemed to be hanging in the balance when the bell sounded to start the final stanza.
Jennings immediately came out swinging in numbers, working combinations from the body to head, and Perez stood in there and was more than willing to exchange with the Philadelphian. With the final result still very much in question, Perez delivered the illegal blow that ultimately sealed his fate. Jennings finished off the round strong with a nice burst, which gave the 29-year-old heavyweight a 10-8 frame in my eyes.
With much anticipation, ring announcer Michael Buffer soon after announced the final scorecards, with Jennings securing the split decision by counts of 113-114, 115-112 and 114-113.
By final CompuBox punchstats, Jennings was the more accurate puncher (149/513, 29%), while Perez was the busier fighter (116/571, 20%).