Jennings vs Perez: Unbeaten heavyweights clash with title shot at stake on May 24

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Bryant Jennings and Mike Perez will headline next month on HBO, with an eventual shot at the WBC heavyweight title on the line.

On May 24, the heavyweights will headline on HBO Boxing After Dark, with unbeaten contenders Bryant Jennings and Mike Perez squaring off in an unique WBC eliminator situation, where the winner isn't quite next in line, but will have a ticket, kind of like going to the deli or something. This is a stupid way to explain the situation.

With the WBC heavyweight title currently vacant and set to be decided between Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola on May 10, Deontay Wilder already has secured the right to face the winner of that fight. The Jennings-Perez winner, meanwhile, would have the right to face the Stiverne/Arreola-Wilder winner down the road. It's all part of the WBC sort of digging in to find a successor to Vitali Klitschko, and though most sanctioning body ideas are worthy of ridicule, this one isn't half bad.

"The WBC is proud to sanction the fight between Perez and Jennings as a final elimination fight as part of the WBC tournament in the heavyweight division," stated Mauricio Sulaiman of the World Boxing Council. "Vitali Klitschko was honored with the Emeritus Champion distinction after he decided to search his dream of becoming President of his country Ukraine and is being regarded as a hero by many."

"The WBC ordered a tournament between all top rated fighters to fight and Perez vs Jennings will prove to be a formidable match to find the second mandatory contender of the WBC heavyweight division. "

Jennings (18-0, 10 KO) beat Artur Szpilka in his HBO debut on January 25, and now the 29-year-old Philadelphia native is looking to make a real dent on the division.

"The world has been desperately seeking a heavyweight to take over the division and I believe that person is me," said Jennings. "By defeating Mike Perez, I will position myself as the mandatory position in the WBC. My promoter Gary Shaw ensures me that if I win this fight, I'll be looking at a potential world title bout soon. My main focus is winning this fight against Perez and I'm doing everything in the gym to make that a reality. I'll be ready to go come May 24th."

Perez (20-0-1, 12 KO) won his HBO debut last year against Magomed Abdusalamov, but went to a disappointing draw in January against Carlos Takam, with some wondering if the lingering effects of the Abdusalamov fight -- the mental effects, that is, of fighting an opponent who then went into a coma -- were hampering his performance.

"My dream has always been to fight for the heavyweight championship," said Perez, 28, a Cuban fighter now based in Ireland. "This has been my dream since I first started boxing and I have sacrificed a lot to get this opportunity. Jennings and I have been on crash course for a while and now with so much at risk I'm sure it will bring out the best in both of us. However, as good as Jennings is I will be victorious."

Promoters Gary Shaw and Tom Loeffler are also looking forward to the fight, and getting their fighters into position for that world title shot.

"Mike Perez is a good fighter with an undefeated record and he is dangerous for any opponent," said Shaw. "But I feel my fighter Bryant Jennings has the athletic ability, the speed and movement to defeat him and is the all around better fighter. This is the type of fight the fans deserve, two undefeated guys putting it all on the line to get a world title shot, that's what boxing is all about."

"It is rare to see two undefeated heavyweights once again risk their record in a fight like this featured on HBO," said Loeffler. "However there was no hesitation from either side when the WBC ordered this eliminator because both fighters want to fight for the WBC heavyweight championship of the world. We feel that Mike is among the best heavyweights in the world and expect him to show that on May 24th against Bryant Jennings."

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