Madison Square Garden was the site of the most recent fights for both Luis Ortiz and Bryant Jennings, and they couldn't have unfolded more differently. Just 63 days before this fight, "The Real King Kong" swatted aside a jovial 261-pound Argentine named Matias Vidondo in three rounds while a determined Jennings was outclassed Wladimir Klitschko. On Saturday, both will again fight in New York state but the surroundings will be decidedly different as their bout will take place at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, a venue surrounded by farm land and wide-open spaces.
Cuban Wrecking Machine: So far Ortiz has ripped through his opponents in short order and uniquely, his latter fights have taken even less time to complete; his last 10 outings have averaged just 2.1 rounds while his first 13 averaged 5.1. Ortiz's effort against Vidondo was typical of his recent work as he scored two knockdowns, out-landed Vidondo 54-8 overall, 14-1 jabs and 40-7 power and ended the bout in round three. What was extraordinary was his accuracy; he landed 77% of his power shots while taking just 20% in return. In his three CompuBox-tracked fights Ortiz landed 60% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts while taking 30% in return. Also, Ortiz showed off an unusually effective jab for a left-hander as he averaged 6.6 jab connects per round, well above the 5.3 heavyweight average. That boosted his three-fight average to 4.0 jab connects per round, a good figure for someone of his style and physique. That may stand him in good stead against Jennings, arguably the best all-around fighter he has faced as a pro.
Decelerating?: Granted, Jennings' last two foes -- Klitschko and Mike Perez -- had difficult styles to look good against but the numbers don't lie. In those fights he averaged just 37 punches per round to their 46.5 while in his previous six CompuBox-tracked bouts Jennings averaged 53.1 per round to their 40.5. Jennings' jab was shut down (1.2 connects per round against Klitschko and Perez vs. 5.5 connects per round in the previous six) as well as his accuracy (29% overall, 12% jabs, 36% power vs. 40% overall, 27% jabs, 49% power in his previous six). One encouraging sign was that Jennings was still defensively responsible as he tasted 20% overall and 30% power against Perez and 26% overall and 32% power against Klitschko. In fact, Jennings was more accurate than "Dr. Steelhammer" -- 29% overall, 33% power -- but Klitschko's jab (7.7 connects per round) was decisive as his 92-16 bulge led to an overall gap of 144-110. It's also not a good sign that Jennings has fought just twice since July 2014; in the previous 17 months Jennings had fought four times and scored four knockouts, three inside six rounds.
Prediction: Jennings is athletic and willing (aren't most fighters from Philadelphia?) but does he have the necessary physicality to deal with a 6-foot-4, 240-pound southpaw with massive power and a deep amateur pedigree? Perhaps he can for a few rounds but the stress of keeping Ortiz away will wear on Jennings. Ortiz by mid-rounds TKO.