Wladimir Klitschko successfully defended his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles at New York’s Madison Square Garden tonight with a unanimous points decision over previously undefeated challenger Bryant Jennings.
All three judges found in favour of the Ukrainian with scores of 116-111, 116-111 and 118-109, despite a spirited effort from the challenger who succeeded in announcing himself as a name in the heavyweight division.
Klitschko – who now moves to 64-3 (53KO’s) – didn’t have everything his own way and was forced to work for his victory for the first time in a long while. Now, whether these are the first signs of father time clutching at his ankles or the fact that Jennings was underestimated by many remains to be seen.
Tyson Fury will be looking forward to answering that question in the coming months, when he has his mandatory date with the champion.
If the latter part of the fight took a surprising and welcome twist, the first half was very much business as usual.
Klitschko dominated the first 3 stanzas behind his long left jab that has accounted for so many fighters down the years. The formbook was being followed to the letter as Jennings found it difficult to get inside and work, thus appearing negative in his approach.
It was the 4th round that gave us a clear indication that the intent Jennings promised was not of the empty variety. The Philadelphian had minor success leaping in with the left hook, catching the Ukrainian unawares. Although the round went to the champion, Jennings was encouraged.
So that encouragement continued in the 5th, when Jennings landed 2 solid looking straight left hands to the delight of the American fans. It wasn’t enough however, as Klitschko returned to his trusty ramrod of a jab, following it up with numerous rights that saw him retain control, albeit shaky control.
It was 6th through to the 8th round that saw the champion’s output and accuracy drop and Jennings take over, just enough to nick the rounds on my card. His lead left hook landing with regularity, it wasn’t empathic, but it was effective and for a time Klitschko was out of sorts and Jennings knew it.
What makes Klitschko so effective is the morbid repetition of his work round after round, perfected over 20 long years to stick to the plan and pump out the shots and the accuracy will return. In the 9th it did, stopping the rot, forcing Jennings to showboat, informing the crowd that a signature one two had found the target well.
The pattern continued for the remaining three rounds that Klitschko took – despite being deducted a point for leaning on – fairly comfortably behind the jab, despite the best efforts of the bold American who moves to 19-1 (10KO’s).
Such a wonderful setting demanded entertainment and that’s what it got, there can be no question about that. Jennings came to win as promised and was victorious in defeat – this man first laced them up 6 years ago – and the heavyweight champion looks fallible again.
With Klitschko on US soil, Wilder, Fury an now Jennings in the mix, the future is finally looking bright for the heavyweight division and with Madison Square Garden on board, there might be life in the old dog yet.
Other boxing action on tonight’s card:
Sadam Ali UD 10 Francisco Santana
Charles Martin TKO 1 Tom Dallas
Kenneth Sims Jr UD 6 Luis Rodriguez