SAN DIEGO, April 25, 2015 – Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has mowed down his last few opponents so effectively, the most exciting part of the fight is often the theatrical European introduction and ring walk.
Klitschko is a superstar in Europe. American fans could be forgiven their lack of enthusiasm for the Ukrainian champion, who hasn’t fought in the United States since a 12-round decision over Sultan Ibragimov at Madison Square Garden, and he’s fought in the U.S. only three times in the last decade. Klitschko (63-3, 54 KOs) will change it up on Saturday, defending his title on U.S. soil as he returns to Madison Square Garden against undefeated American Bryant Jennings (19-0, 10 KOs).
Klitschko is 39 years old, with little left to prove. Last fall he signed a three-fight deal with HBO. This bout against Jennings is the second in the series. If he wins, which most observers believe he will, he could close out his career with another fight in the U.S., against an opponent who has sparked interest by American fans in the heavyweight division for the first time in many years, Deontay Wilder of Alabama. At 6-7, Wilder is tall enough to look Dr. Steelhammer in the eye, and he possesses formidable punching power, with all but one of his 33 wins coming by knockout. He also has the charm of a young Ali, a winning smile and “bring it on!” attitude.
But we digress. Before there is any serious talk about Klitschko vs. Wilder, Bryant Jennings gets the chance to be the American to resurrect the heavyweight division.
Jennings has a three-inch reach advantage and a nine-year age advantage at 30, but gives the three inches back in height. Klitschko loves to move right in on top of his opponents early and lean on them, making them carry his full weight for seconds at a time. It tires a boxer out, and it can also frustrate one who isn’t patient, causing them to get a little too rash and a little too close. This is when Klitschko brings the hammer down.
Although his record looks impressive, Jennings hasn’t faced anywhere near the level of competition as Klitschko. He has an uphill battle Saturday, literally. He may acquit himself well and he may go the distance, but no one has serious expectations he will win.
This is Klitschko’s 18th title defense. He sits two back of Larry Holmes in second place for most consecutive heavyweight title defenses. Joe Louis holds the record for all weight classes at 25 in a row.
Both men looked in exceptional condition at their weigh-in on Friday. Klitschko weighed 241.6 pounds; Jennings 226.8 pounds. There were fireworks at the weigh-in, but not from the two men in the main event. Former champion Shannon Briggs showed up to call out Klitschko, but his attention quickly turned to Wilder, who was also present. The two went at it with Briggs calling Wilder a phony champion, diverting attention from the boxers on the stage and the reason everyone showed up in the first place. The whole thing ended up on Twitter courtesy of a video shot by former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, who was standing between the big men. Briggs is 43 and needs to get a grip.
Viewers will see a welterweight contest featuring two Americans on the undercard. 2008 U.S. Olympian Sadam Ali (21-0, 13 KOs) will take on Francisco Santana of California (22-3, 11 KOs) as the co-main event. Ali made his HBO debut in November with a smart ninth-round knockout over Luis Carlos Abregu. Santana is riding a 10-fight winning streak, with his last loss to Jermell Charlo in 2011. If the main event turns out to be a little dull, this cracking good fight could provide the entertainment value.
HBO Championship Boxing, Klitschko vs Jennings, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on HBO.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is president/owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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