English starlet Michael Jennings will be given his final exam tomorrow night in Bolton as he meets veteran hard case Jimmy Vincent for the vacant British welterweight title on the under-card of the much-anticipated Matt Skelton - Danny Williams heavyweight showdown. Jennings is already the reigning English titlist but the man in the opposite corner of the ring feels that the British belt already belongs to him and will likely attack the Chorley man with unbridled ferocity. While there's no question that Jennings, 26-0 (12), earned his shot at the British title, Jimmy Vincent has had the much rougher road of the two. The thirty-six-year-old Birmingham traveler, 21-18-2 (9), turned professional in 1987 and for ten years toiled in obscurity throughout the Midlands and Yorkshire, fighting as high as middleweight. By 1997, Vincent started facing a better grade of opposition, losing to the likes of Gary Jacobs, Wayne Alexander, Jim Rock and Cornelius Carr. The hard luck Brummie's luck began to change however, and by 2001, he won the British Masters light middleweight belt by defeating Jason Williams.
In December of 2002, Vincent shocked undefeated hot prospect David Walker, stopping "Kid Dynamite" in eight to win a British title eliminator. Seven months later Vincent's improbable rise came to a screeching halt as he lost a heartbreaking one-point decision to comparative novice David Barnes in Dagenham. Many ringsiders felt that the former journeyman had more than held his own and was the rightful British titlist. Undaunted, Vincent next tried for the vacant WBU welterweight strap but was outfought by one of the toughest men in the sport, Belfast's Eamonn Magee in December of 2003 and hasn't entered a boxing ring since.
Vincent's motivation for this bout against Jennings will certainly be running high but at thirty-six-years-of-age, it's open to question as to whether his skills can match his level of desire. Standing in the way of Vincent finally realizing the Lonsdale Belt dream will be the much younger Michael Jennings.
A cautious counter-puncher, Jennings is a very patient twenty-seven-year-old who prefers to break opponents down over the rounds before he puts his foot to the gas pedal. The veteran Birmingham man will most likely not allow Jennings to sit back as his style is full speed ahead at all times. Vincent will also be aware that the longer the bout lasts, the more his advanced age will become a disadvantage, particularly as he hasn't fought in a year-and-a-half.
Jennings is on a roll of late, stopping willful veterans Gavin Down and Chris Saunders recently and is undoubtedly much more skilled than Jimmy Vincent. On paper, he should be able to use footwork and sharp counters to control the older man until Vincent runs out of gas and is ripe for the taking. Boxing however is a very unpredictable sport in which heart and desire can overcome superior ability. If Vincent can make it a fight and draw Michael Jennings into the trenches, we may yet see the old warhorse with the British title strapped around his waist.
Curtis McCormick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org