Heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings is in an ideal position.
The Philadelphia fighter with a big personality is sitting in the mandatory position to be the next opponent for the winner of the fight between titleholder Bermane Stiverne (24-1, 21 KOs) and undefeated current mandatory challenger Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32 KOs). They are slated to fight on Jan. 17 -- although the fight has not been formally announced -- and the winner is obligated to fight Jennings next.
It's a fight Jennings (19-0, 10 KOs) wants. Jennings, who handed Mike Perez and Artur Szpilka their first losses in his past two fights, both eliminators, could have fought on HBO this month, but passed up the opportunity in order to wait things out for the title fight.
"I could have fought this month but my mind is set on fighting for the WBC world title," Jennings said. "I worked my way to the top of the WBC rankings and now it's time for me to make my mark in history. Stiverne or Wilder, I don't care who it is. I'll be ready to fight either one of them. My promoters, Gary Shaw, Antonio Leonard, and I are all on the same page. We want that WBC title.
"I'm grinding every day like machine. I'm constantly visualizing myself with my hands raised in the air with the WBC strap around my waist. I'm hungry, man. I know I can do this."
Perhaps they do want that belt, but Jennings' position is even more enviable because he is also a wanted man by Wladimir Klitschko (63-3, 54 KOs), the 38-year-old lineal champion with all the other alphabet belts.
Klitschko, who looked spectacular in his devastating four-knockdown, fifth-round knockout of unbeaten Kubrat Pulev in his 17th title defense last Saturday in Germany (where he usually fights), is making plans to have the second fight of his new three-fight HBO contract in the United States, where he has not fought since shutting out Sultan Ibragimov to unify two belts at Madison Square Garden in New York in 2008.
Klitschko has told me multiple times that he would like to fight again in the United States and, from what I am told, his fiance, American television star Hayden Panettiere, who is due any day with their first child (a girl), also wants him to fight in America.
So if Klitschko is going to come back and fight in the United States he needs a legitimate and marketable opponent. Jennings, 30, is that guy. He's undefeated, he has won his past two fights on HBO, he looks the part, he talks a good game and, most importantly, he's a legitimate top-10 contender.
"Bryant is a very gifted athlete who is hungry to show the world that he's an elite fighter," Shaw said. "He has got the athletic ability to have a long career in this sport. The heavyweight division needs a guy like Bryant to be the ambassador for American fighters. He has all the tools to become that guy."
So while Jennings' focus is on the Stiverne-Wilder winner, Klitschko is his more likely next opponent. If he waits on the Stiverne-Wilder winner, he likely wouldn't get a shot until at least next summer.
Jennings can get Klitschko in March or April and, let's be honest, he'd get a lot more credit for beating Klitschko -- the real champion -- or even performing well against him in a loss, than he would for beating the Stiverne-Wilder winner.
Shaw and Bernd Boente, Klitschko's manager, have already begun negotiating the deal.
"I have been contacted by the Klitschko people and they have spoken to me about a possible deal for a fight in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2015," Shaw said.
The Klitschko camp is also having conversations with executives from the two leading New York arenas: Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center, which has wanted Klitschko to fight in the building. Klitschko wants his next American fight to be in New York.
HBO is on board for Klitschko-Jennings and I am told it's willing to pay about $3 million to put it on.
Boente told me, "I also hope that we can make a fight in New York work. It comes down to either MSG or Barclays if we do a fight in the U.S. Jennings would be the preferred opponent for HBO."
Boente said while there have been talks with Shaw, they are apart on the money. This is boxing. That is no surprise, especially in the early going of talks.
Jennings is going to get a title shot. It's just a matter of against whom. Boente, Shaw and HBO will make the sausage over the next couple of months.
Reading the tea leaves, I think you can make plans for Klitschko-Jennings on a spring Saturday night in New York.