Michael Jennings: Exclusive Interview With The Welterweight Contender

31.07.06 – By James Slater: Not only is Michael Jennings one of Britain’s most talented welterweights, he is without a doubt the single hardest training boxer in the UK today. The way Michael throws himself into intense training and conditioning is nothing short of awe inspiring. Stamina, dedication and hunger are never going to present problems for the twenty-eight year old Jennings. In fact, Michael has been guilty of over training in the past. The former British welterweight champ lost his belt, in his lone defeat, to Young Muttley, due, in large part, to doing just this.

However, all this is behind him now, and Jennings, now a far more experienced boxer, is looking forward to his fight against the big punching Takaloo in September. This fight will be for the WBU welterweight championship, and will take place on the huge Clinton Woods v Glen Johnson III card, held in Bolton.

Earlier today, I had the great privilege of spending the morning at the gym where Jennings prepares for his bouts – The Collyhurst and Moston Lads club, in Manchester, England – and watched him in training. I also managed to spend a few minutes talking to him. Michael was more than friendly and it was a pleasure talking to such a down to earth person – a person who I believe has great things ahead of him in his chosen profession.

This is what he had to say during the interview.

James Slater: Well, you’re obviously in great condition. I know training hard is never a problem for you. Are you looking forward to the Takaloo fight?

Michael Jennings: Yeah, I’m not one of them big heads who mouths off, but when I go into any fight I’m confident I’m gonna win, otherwise I wouldn’t be in there.

James Slater: Have you been watching tapes of his fights, do you know everything about him?

Michael Jennings: To be honest with you, I have watched tapes. I’ve not watched in detail yet. Brian’s (Brian Hughes – Michael’s trainer) going to get a couple of tapes. I’ll let Brian and the trainers watch them first. Obviously because they’ll see what I need to work on. And then I’ll watch them and see if I can pick up anything they haven’t – Brian and Patrick (Pat Barrett, assistant trainer).

James Slater: The fight’s on a big bill, as you know – The Woods v Johnson III card. There will be lots of interest, from America also. Will this phase you at all or will you just take it in your stride?

Michael Jennings: No, I’m not bothered. At the end of the day I’m not bothered about Clinton Woods and all them lot. That night, all I’m concerned with is my fighting Takaloo. And I wanna win.

James Slater: Can I just talk about some of your key fights? When you won the British title, it was in a single round. I mean no-one trains for a one round fight, were you surprised?

Michael Jennings: No, I never train for a one round fight. I trained for twelve hard rounds, like I do for any fight – I never take anyone for granted. For that fight (with Jimmy Vincent) I was just training as I am now actually, just for boxing, nice and relaxed. Jimmy Vincent just came forward and I never even looked for a punch, I was jabbing, jabbing – next thing a little right hand came and I caught him right on the button and I saw his eyes go. So I stepped in and threw a combination, and he threw a left hook back – which I caught on my glove. I thought, “Okay, he’s recovered a bit now, just back off and go back to my boxing” and at that exact moment I caught him with another right and I saw him going, so I finished with a big left hook. I couldn’t believe it!

James Slater: Yeah, and then you’re first defence, against Bradley Pryce, almost the same thing happened……

Michael Jennings: Yeah, I know with me, yeah. He caught me cold. I think everyone has been caught cold, whether they’ve gone down or not, I don’t know. He caught me by surprise and that’s what it was. If I was to say, well, I must have been hurt – otherwise I wouldn’t have gone down, but I didn’t feel like I was in trouble. I got back up. And with Pryce, I’d have liked to have stuck to my boxing, but it seemed like he had a foot extra reach on me! So I thought, “I’m gonna have to get stuck in here, and have a bit of toe-to-toe stuff inside”. He’s a lot better boxer than people give him credit for. I had to get close, and work on the inside with him – and that’s what I did.

James Slater: Yes, It was impressive the way you handled the knockdown. It’s all experience, isn’t it?

Michael Jennings: Oh yeah, it is.

James Slater: Was that you’re first ever knockdown?

Michael Jennings: No! (laughs) Saunders (Chris Saunders, in Michael’s 24th bout) caught me, again in the first round. It was my own fault, I know I’ve got good stamina – it takes me so long to get warmed up. But since then, I knew I would get warmed up properly every time out. Especially against Takaloo, because I know he can bang, I’m not going to get caught cold with any stupid punches.

James Slater: Brian was saying that you were concerned at the start of you’re career that you weren’t knocking enough people out?

Michael Jennings: Yeah, I mean at first I was very amateurish and it was just the way I was as a kid you know, get on your back foot and box and move sort of thing. Then Brian gave me a few tapes of Ken Buchanan, to work on my accuracy. And he told me to aim for somewhere on an opponent’s face, and that’s just what I did – I started aiming and looking for a spot. And my power just started coming, I could feel it when I caught someone. Then I wasn’t stopping fighters on cuts, I was putting them down. I just carried it on.

James Slater: Would you say you’re pretty much at your peak now, at twenty-eight?

Michael Jennings: Yeah, obviously, I’m gonna be at my peak at twenty-eight. I’m a young twenty-eight, because I’ve always been fit anyway. I’ve always had good stamina, always been in training – from the age of thirteen. I’ve never had any time off since I started boxing.

James Slater: So that was when you put gloves on for the first time then, at age thirteen. Did you have any great hero as inspiration?

Michael Jennings: No, what happened was my older brother trained at the boxing club where I went, a few years before me. Then my younger brother went there. I just went down and have never looked back since. I don’t know what made me go, I just kept going and going.

James Slater: You’ve said you’re not the big headed type or anything like that. But do you have any prediction for the Takaloo fight?

Michael Jennings: Well again, I’m gonna be training for twelve rounds. Hopefully I can frustrate him and just use my accuracy. You never know, I might cut him up or something – just as long as I win, that’s the main thing I’m looking for.

James Slater: Well I hope it’s a good fight, and good luck to you.

Michael Jennings: Oh, thanks. Nice one.

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