Saturday, December 20, 2008

Michael Jennings is a Real Life Underdog

England's Michael Jennings will face Miguel Cotto on February 21st at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Two months from today, Michael Jennings will step through the ropes and into a boxing ring for what will be the biggest fight of his life. Staring back at him from the other corner will be Miguel Cotto, the Puerto Rican destroyer, who is attempting to make his way back from a devastating knockout loss at the hands of Antonio Margarito.

The fight was pegged for Atlantic City, New Jersey but it is now likely headed to Madison Square Garden in New York, which is practically Miguel Cotto's backyard and a venue where he has fought on several occasions.

For Jennings, the script of this fight reads like the original 'Rocky' movie for the likeable boxer who was born in Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom. Jennings has been hand-picked from virtual anonymity by Cotto's brain-trust to face one of the biggest names in the sport for the vacant WBO welterweight title.

You can almost see the scene from the original 'Rocky' film in which Apollo Creed, his promoter Mr. Jergens and his trainer Duke are all meeting in an office searching for a sellable, yet safe opponent for Apollo to face.

Except in this case - this is real life. So you can switch the names to Miguel Cotto, promoter Bob Arum and Top Rank, Inc. matchmaker Bruce Trampler.

Arum: "We've got to find someone for Cotto to come back against."

Trampler: "Yes, someone not too dangerous, but with a good record and a high ranking."

Cotto: "I don't care who it is, I'll fight anyone."

Trampler: "How about this kid Michael Jennings? He's got a record of 34-1 (16)KO's so the television people would buy him and the fans would like him because he only has one loss."

Arum: "Besides that, he doesn't have a lot of knockouts, so Miguel should be able to go right through him."

Jennings getting ready to go against Miguel Cotto, one of the best fighters in the world.

The fight between Cotto and Jennings was put together quickly and Jennings was plucked from relative obscurity and put into a shot against one of the biggest names in all of boxing in what will be a major pay-per-view event. Most people that follow the sport, even the ones that follow it closely, have never even seen Jennings fight before.

"It's going to be a mammoth task, fighting Miguel Cotto, but at the end of the day I'm going to go to America, go over, and do me best and try and win," says the handsome and soft-spoken Jennings, who is the longest of long shots.

Jennings knows the challenge he has in front of him is a colossal one fraught with danger, but he likes the style in which Cotto fights and is happy that he won't have to go looking for the fight or chase Cotto around the ring.

"I like it when a fighter comes forward and comes to me. That's the style I like, you know?" he asks in a matter-of-fact manner.

And with Cotto, Jennings should get his wish as Puerto Rico's favorite son is definitely a forward charging fighter.

"Cotto is a brilliant boxer and I know that," he says. "But he's not the biggest welterweight in the world either," rationalizes Jennings who has fought his entire career as a welterweight.

Jennings has been good enough to win the World Boxing Union title at 147-pounds as well as the British welterweight title and he's been fighting professionally since 1999. He's lost only once in 35 career fights (a split decision) and is a solid pro with nearly 200 rounds under his belt. And for what it's worth, he's rated #3 by the WBO.

He's also the drummer for a bourgeoning music band called 'The Shoks' who have been good enough to open for Ian Brown, former lead singer of the alternative, English rock band The Stone Roses.

"To be honest with you, I'm a much better fighter than I am a drummer," explains Jennings. His brother is also a member of the band and he got into the gig almost by accident, simply because he has always liked music. "It's not been easy to take to, but I do O.K." says the humble and honest 31 year-old.

Jennings will be training through the Christmas holiday season but says all of the effort and sacrifice will be worth it and that hopefully it will all pay off. He would like nothing more than to follow in the recent successful footsteps that fellow U.K. fighters like Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton and David Haye have enjoyed. The fight with Cotto will be his first in America but he says he is readying himself for that, too.

"A lot of British fighters go over to America with the wrong attitude," says Jennings. "Me, I feel that I'm a mentally strong person and I'm not going to America to lose. As far as I'm concerned, and in my mind, I'm going over to win.

At the end of the day, I've not got a lot of pressure on me back because everybody is expectin' me to go over there and get chinned anyways. I'm a massive underdog and I don't mind that, I don't mind that one bit. I'm just going to train as hard as I can, go over and give it one-hundred percent. I'm just not going over there for the money or anything. I'm going to give it me all. I'm going over there for a fight."

Cotto (pictured above) training in Puerto Rico, is one of the best fighters in the world and will be the heavy favorite against Jennings.

But come the night of the fight when Jennings looks across the ring and sees Miguel Cotto standing there, is he going to be ready for what is going to come at him?

After all, Cotto has a fearsome reputation and is ranked as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.

"I'm going to have a lot of fear in me, from this fight, because of who he is and what have you," says Jennings. "So that will make my sharpness and you know, all my senses, it will make them stronger, you know what I mean? It will have to be my best performance. Otherwise he is going to win. I have to make sure I do things I've not done before."

December 2008

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