Preview: Heavyweights headline HBO holiday boxing, Saturday, 10:15 pm ET

HBO broadcasts the last big event in the U.S. for 2015, with plenty of promising action for good boxing head boys and girls.

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Luiz Ortiz (left) and Bryant Jennings both hope to make an impact in the shifting heavyweight division Saturday. Photo: Alex Menendez-HoganPhotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Luiz Ortiz (left) and Bryant Jennings both hope to make an impact in the shifting heavyweight division Saturday. Photo: Alex Menendez-HoganPhotos/Golden Boy Promotions

SAN DIEGO, December 18, 2015 – Boxing fans need to get their Christmas shopping done and settle in on Saturday for the last major card in the United States for 2015 from New York. HBO starts the televised fights at 10:15 p.m. ET/7:15 p.m.

The main event offers two aspiring heavyweights who hope to swoop in and take advantage of the uncertainty at the top of the division. Bryant Jennings of Philadelphia (19-1, 10 KOs) faces Luis Ortiz of Miami via Cuba (23-0, 20 KOs) for a WBA interim heavyweight title. The belt going to the winner positions him for a chance to face a bigger name in 2016.

Jennings takes his craft seriously, with solid boxing fundamentals. He is now working with trainer John David Jackson. He is a vegan, he espouses clean living and personal ethics. in an interview with Communities Digital News, he became philosophical about the turmoil he sees in the modern heavyweight division. Jennings tells me it’s a failure of morals, not athletics.

“The world is changing, people’s perspective is changing. You know uh, religion is getting less powerful, so therefore people’s morals and everything are just fading. Money, the greed for money is rising.


“People don’t stand for nothing nowadays, so you know you just, everybody’s doing it for a different reason … That’s why I surround myself around good people, that’s why I love good people, having good relationships, exercising the good mentality I grew up off of. That’s what it is. This world, it’s happening in everything, it’s happening in music, it’s happening in boxing, it’s happening in art, it’s happening in all sports, it’s happening on TV.”

Jennings told me he wouldn’t let himself get discouraged, he would just keep pushing forward and not become part of the problem, in part to provide a good example for his young son.

“There may only be 10 of us. But we just keep separating ourselves, and we live the traditional way, we live the way we know how we living, and we don’t never let nobody change that. So I’m always encouraged, never discouraged about life.

“Pay a little more close attention to the people you have in front of you. Take more credit for picking a better person, better people to make this sport a better sport. Because this is your job, your job incudes your life, your life includes your family, and your family includes your history and your generation. Always make the right decisions, be smarter, and do what you gotta do.”

Bryant Jennings (right) went the distance with Wladimir Klitschko in April, but lost the decision. Photo: Naoki Fukuda
Bryant Jennings (right) went the distance with Wladimir Klitschko in April, but lost the decision. Photo: Naoki Fukuda

Jennings did more than expected of him in his last bout against then world champion Wladimir Klitschko in front of a packed house at Madison Square Garden in April. If a loss can be considered productive, this was it. It provided Jennings a steep learning curve, and there’s nothing wrong with it. He earned plenty of respect for his efforts.

After the loss, Jennings switched trainers and hired John David Jackson. With Klitschko’s recent upset defeat by Tyson Fury shaking the foundations of the heavyweight division, there is plenty riding on this fight for Jennings and Ortiz to get into the middle of the mix. After the bout with Jennings, Klitschko politely but firmly brushed off a rematch, citing his mandatory defenses. The first was Tyson Fury.

Luiz Ortiz made short work of Matias Vidondo in October. Photo: Naoki Fukuda
Luiz Ortiz made short work of Matias Vidondo in October. Photo: Naoki Fukuda

Luis Ortiz comes into the bout with Jennings after his own recent appearance at the Garden on the Golovkin-Lemieux undercard. Ortiz delivered a spectacular knockout in the first round, dropping big Matias Ariel Vidondo of Argentina in a way only a big heavyweight can fall. Ortiz said after the fight he wanted to fight the best and he wanted Golden Boy Promotions “to keep its promise and get me the best. I am ready for Klitschko, I know he is running from me. I am going to come after him,” vowed Ortiz. A few intermediate tests are important for the Cuban, who has not faced any significant opposition. Ortiz failed a drug test after a 2014 bout with Lateef Kayode of Nigeria, who is barely in the top 40 ranked heavyweights.

Ortiz is a man of few words, especially compared to Jennings. He said through a translator he would let his fists do the talking Saturday.

Jennings will be motivated by the chance to get revenge not only against Klitschko down the road, but to prove you can win without cutting corners in boxing. Ortiz has a puncher’s chance with his power. If he can get Jennings where he wants him, he can hurt him. Expect a lights out finish in this one.

Nicholas "Axe Man" Walters (left) is back in the ring against Jason Sosa of New Jersey. Photo: Alex Menendez-HoganPhotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Nicholas “Axe Man” Walters (left) is back in the ring against Jason Sosa of New Jersey. Photo: Alex Menendez-HoganPhotos/Golden Boy Promotions

On the undercard, fans will be treated to a show by flashy featherweight Nicholas Walters of Jamaica (26-0, 21 KOs) against Jason Sosa (18-1-3, 14 KOs) from nearby Camden, New Jersey in a 10 round fight. This won’t go the distance. This is a “stay busy” bout for Walters, who sits on top of an extremely competitive division. Fans want to see Walters matched up against Santa Cruz, Selby or Lomachenko. Sosa is coming down in weight from super featherweight to get this opportunity, a disadvantage when he can’t really afford one.

Cuban Yunieski Gonzalez (left) wants to prove he's a player in the light heavyweight division against Vyacheslav Shabranskyy of Ukraine. Photo: Alex Menendez-HoganPhotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Cuban Yunieski Gonzalez (left) wants to prove he’s a player in the light heavyweight division against Vyacheslav Shabranskyy of Ukraine. Photo: Alex Menendez-HoganPhotos/Golden Boy Promotions

HBO Latino will follow these two fights with a broadcast of three additional fights featuring familiar faces starting at 12:15 a.m. ET/9:15 p.m. PT. Light heavyweight Yunieski Gonzalez (16-1, 12 KOs) of Cuba fights Vyacheslave Shabranskyy (14-0, 12 KOs) of Ukraine now living in Los Angeles, an amateur kickboxing champion. Yunieski lost a narrow decision most people thought he won against Jean Pascal. Gabriel Rosado (21-9, 13 KOs) fights Joshua Clottey 39-4, 22 KOs) in a junior middleweight bout. Rosado has lost tough fights, fought Gennady Golovkin tougher than anyone else has, and is far better than his record indicates. Cuban lightweight Yuriorkis Gamboa (24-1, 17 KOs) wants to make a good show in the wake of his loss to Terence Crawford last year against Hylon Williams Jr. (16-1-1, 3 KOs). Gamboa, the “exciting” Cuban boxer, should not have any trouble here.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.

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