In the final chapter of our three-part series on Michael Jennings’ WBO welterweight fight against Miguel Cotto in New York, we got up close and personal with the Chorley star, who is taking tomorrow night’s once-in-a-lifetime bout at Madison Square Garden in his stride.
MICHAEL Jennings has seen Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe dominate Britain’s boxing landscape over the past decade – now he wants to be the nation’s next fighting hero.
The seconds are ticking away to the Chorley welterweight’s once-in-a-lifetime world title clash against Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto in New York.
Some experts have suggested that Jennings has no business sharing the same ring as Cotto – a 1/33 shot – for the vacant WBO belt at Madison Square Garden tomorrow night.
But the 31-year-old steadfastly refuses to show any respect to ‘so-called pundits’ that predict a quick and painful night in the Big Apple.
Instead, Jennings only has eyes on adding his name to the list of UK fighters that have shown they rightly belong on the world stage.
British boxing has enjoyed a period of dominance over the past 15 years with, notably, Lennox Lewis, Hatton and Calzaghe ruling the heavyweight, light-welterweight and super middleweight divisions respe-tively, and enjoying the support of the nation on their journey.
And now Jennings who, outside Lancashire and Manchester remains a largely unknown name, aches to be the next name on the lips of the British public.
“Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe have both done brilliantly in their careers – and there’s been a few others as well,” said Jennings.
“I’ve got to know Ricky really well and he’s done a lot for British boxing over the years.
“I’ve done my bit too. I’ve been English champion, British champion and I’m the current WBU champion.
“I also smashed the European champion Rafal Jackiewicz at Widnes a few years ago. I battered him in every round.
“But there’s still a few people out there – the general public – who don’t really know who I am. This fight can change all that.”
He added: “I’ve never really been one that’s gone looking for the big headlines and all the attention. I’m just me – I just get on with life.
“But if I beat Cotto, those big headlines will probably come and I’d probably like it.”
In readiness for his first world title fight and first ever bout outside Britain, few would begrudge Jennings a few nerves as he takes to the NYC ring against destroyer Cotto and his thousands of screaming Puerto Rican fans.
Yet the Chorley Lurcher insists he won’t let the occasion get the better of him – as he plots one of the greatest shocks in British boxing history.
“Obviously, I’m not going to get a lot of support compared to Cotto. There will be a lot of boos from the Puerto Ricans,” he laughs.
“But once I’m in that ring, it doesn’t matter where I am, Madison Square Gardens or Preston’s Guild Hall, it’s game on.
“Cotto’s a great fighter, I know that. He’s got a wicked left hook to the body, but I’m ready for all of that.
“But it could all change on the night. Cotto might do something out of the ordinary.
“I have to have plan A, B and C up my sleeve and, hopefully, one of them works. If they don’t, then hopefully Plan Z will!
“I believe I’ve got the speed and fitness over him – there’s a few positives in my favour.
“I’m not one for bragging or making bold statements, but in my mind, I’m going out into the ring 100 per cent to win, no matter what happens.”
And Jennings, reportedly taking home a modest purse of $150,000 for the fight, compared to Cotto’s $3m, is refusing to take any notice of those critics who insist he is a lamb to the slaughter tomorrow night.
He added: “People are saying I’m well out of my depth and that I’m going to get chinned, but I’m not ranked number two by the WBO for nothing.
“I’ve worked my way up through the rankings and I deserve this shot at the title.
“I’ve looked at some stuff on the internet, to see what some people think, but I’m not too bothered “At the end of the day, it’s me and Cotto in the ring. There’s nobody else in there.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’ve trained like mad over the past few months to be in this position.
“I’m going give it my best shot. Hopefully, it will be good enough.”