On Saturday, April 25th, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, WBA/WBO/IBF heavyweight title holder Wladimir Klitschko 63-3 (53) will make his 18th consecutive title defense (17-0 13 ko’s) against American challenger Bryant “By-By” Jennings 19-0 (10).
The fight will be broadcast on HBO and marks Klitschko’s first bout in the United States since February of 2008.
Wladimir is riding a 10-year unbeaten streak, and if you look into the streak a little further, you can say with impunity that he hasn’t even had a tough fight or one close call during it.
Klitschko, 6’6″ 245, has been fighting as a professional for almost 19 years, compared to Jennings, 30, who turned pro five years ago. By the time they step into the ring, Klitschko doesn’t look to have slowed down much, if at all, since he began his 21 fight winning streak back in October of 2004.
Bryant Jennings is 6’3″ with an 84 inch reach and weighs about 225 pounds. Some have suggested that he reminds them physically of Evander Holyfield. Holyfield just so happens to be one of the most mentally and physically tough fighters in any weight division in boxing history. As for comparing Jennings to Holyfield mentally or stylistically, it’s way too early to go down that road. But let’s just say for Jennings to compete, let alone beat Wladimir, he better turn out to be Evander’s clone.
Jenning recently said, “Most people don’t even reflect on history and realize that some of the greatest heavyweights of all time weren’t that big. I’m a guy that’s at traditional weight for a heavyweight, that has great movement and has great athletic ability. I have it all, but they’re not even looking at the attributes that I bring to this fight.”
And you know what, there is some truth to what he said. However, having watched Jennings fight four or five times, it’s obvious that he doesn’t have the power or physicality to bother Klitschko enough to make him do anything he doesn’t want to do, and that will have Jennings basically at Klitschko’s mercy. Stylistically, Jennings doesn’t get off or put pressure on like Holyfield via his punch-output and aggression. Which means Wladimir will not be under much, if any duress. Yes, Jennings trains really hard and looks to always be in great shape regarding his stamina, although his chin and ability to recuperate from a big shot has not been tested against a puncher like Wladimir Klitschko.
Jennings also isn’t much of an inside fighter, unless his opponent is on top of him and not really getting off. Then he’ll up the rent and go to the body with multiple shots in waves. But here’s the problem, because Klitschko doesn’t fight on the inside, Jennings will not get many openings to work Klitschko’s body. Jennings covers good with his high guard and doesn’t take many unnecessary risks in order to make something happen.
Think about that, everyone knows that Wladimir never takes any risk unless he’s forced to, so the odds are overwhelming, based on that alone, that Jennings will not make Wladimir fight with a sense of urgency. Which in turn will lessen the chances Klitschko will get caught with a fluke or lottery punch that hurts him to where he can’t recover and come back. Jennings is also hittable when he does open up and has no finishing punch or weapon that can discourage Klitschko from going right at him. Bryant can box and has skill, but his lack of fight altering power will be his undoing.
To beat Wladimir Klitschko, it’ll take a fighter that has the right combination of size, athleticism, speed, power and toughness. Jennings toughness as mentioned earlier has never been tested, and it doesn’t take a sophisticated boxing observer to deduce that he just doesn’t have the power to keep Klitschko from beating him down. So based on the x’s and o’s Jennings is probably ideal for Klitschko to look great against, but there’s more.
Recently, Wladimir Klitschko has started to receive some overdue accolades regarding his career and formidably as a fighter. He’s fighting Jennings in the media capital of the world, New York City. If Wladimir really wants to convince the lingering naysayers that he’s a once in a generation fighter, Jennings is the perfect opponent for him to come out and fight like the heavyweight destroyer he looks like when hitting the heavy bag. In Jennings he’s fighting an inexperienced opponent who may be very willing, but also very limited, and one who will not fight out of his comfort zone and who will most likely, after he feels Klitschko’s strength and power, revert to survival mode…..which will leave Klitschko an open door to really go after him.
To most fans that have watched Klitschko’s career, they see him as a dangerous fighter who for one reason or another has never really quenched their thirst in desiring a show stopping performance, a la Lennox Lewis or Mike Tyson.
Too many opponents have gone rounds with Wladimir that really shouldn’t have been able to hang with him if he didn’t enter the ring with slight trepidation. And that, along with a few other things, have held him back from becoming must see, especially in the United States.
Boxing has lost some steam in the States, not worldwide, but definitely in America. In addition to that, America loves heavyweights. Sure, they’ve flocked in droves to see Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight, but not like they ever did Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson. I’m not saying that if Klitschko destroys Jennings he’ll become the draw or star that Ali or Tyson were, that will never happen. What I am saying is, if Klitschko looks like a real killer against Jennings, interest in him for his next fight against Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury will become much bigger…and more anticipated heavyweight title bouts, that’s great for boxing.
When Jennings fought Mike Perez in his last bout, it was clear early on in the fight that Mike was very sluggish and didn’t really want to be there. There was no point where Jennings picked up on that and did what he had to do to discourage Perez enough to quit, even though Mike was sending signals all over the place. That’s not the kind of mindset that bodes well for him against Klitschko.
I expect Jennings to be very cautious and respectful of Klitschko from the opening bell. I strongly doubt he’ll throw a meaningful punch until he sees what Wladimir is going to do. He’ll be defensive and hope Wlad does something stupid. Once he feels Klitscko’s physical presence, he’ll know immediately that he can’t win….And that will provide Wladimir an ideal opportunity to look like the Lennox Lewis who devastated Frans Botha in two rounds.
If Klitschko goes at Jennings with that mindset, even if he doesn’t get the early stoppage, he’ll gain a ton of new fans.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Photo credit : Rachel McCarson