Jennings aims to close 2012 strong

For the past couple of years, Seth Mitchell has been regarded by many as the top American heavyweight prospect. But Mitchell was surprisingly knocked down three times in the second round and stopped by Johnathon Banks in an upset on HBO on Nov. 17.

Banks and Mitchell will fight again, probably in February or March, because Mitchell is exercising his rematch clause -- and he might win the second fight. But after such a rough loss, it's hard to view Mitchell (25-1-1, 19 KOs) as the best American heavyweight prospect any longer.

He's still a prospect, yes, but the designation of No. 1 U.S. heavyweight prospect now falls to either Bryant Jennings (15-0, 7 KOs) or 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Deontay Wilder (25-0, 25 KOs). Both will have a chance to show their stuff to the public in nationally televised fights this month.

Wilder, 27, will face Kelvin Price on Showtime on Dec. 15 on the Amir Khan-Carlos Molina undercard. But first up is Jennings, 28, who will try to close out what has been an excellent year for him when he takes on Bowie Tupou (22-2, 16 KOs) in a scheduled 12-round fight on Saturday night (10 ET, NBC Sports Network) at Temple University's 4,500-seat Pearson/McGonigle Hall in Jennings' hometown of Philadelphia.

Jennings will be fighting for the fifth time in 2012. He began the year as an unknown but has emerged as a strong prospect because of his performances.

He outpointed previously undefeated Maurice Byarm in January on the debut "Fight Night" card on NBC Sports Network, where he has become a regular. In March, he stopped former titleholder Sergei Liakhovich in the ninth round. Then he outpointed Steve Collins in June and got a breather with a first-round knockout of soft touch Chris Koval on Sept. 8.

"If you thought my fight with Byarm was a big transition for my career, then the rest of the year was magnificent," Jennings said. "I went from never being ranked by a major sanctioning body to being arguably the best [heavyweight] prospect. That's unheard of."

When the year began, few were paying attention to Jennings. Now, as he enters the Tupou fight, there are people paying attention. Jennings also has to deal with the fact that the fight is being held in his hometown.

"It kind of puts a little more pressure on me," he said. "I'm home, and I definitely have to be on my P's and Q's. I have to make sure everything is perfect. This year was definitely great because I exceeded my expectations. I actually did it. That shows how focused and hungry I am to achieve my goals."