Shooting for his 18th consecutive title defense and fighting in the U.S. for the first time in seven years, world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko remains a massive favorite over undefeated American challenger Bryant Jennings in Saturday night’s main event at Madison Square Garden.
The Ukrainian-born titleholder still stands as a -1400 favorite, while Jennings chances for an upset hold pat at +750, according to the latest betting odds from Bovada.lv.
Victorious in his last 20 bouts, and owner of 53 career knockouts, it’s quite easy to understand why Klitschko is such a heavy favorite to retain all of his crowns, especially against an opponent who was working maintenance at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia this time last year and only took up the sport back in 2010 at the age of 25.
Jennings, speaking to The Guardian, described what his first boxing experience was like and how he was hooked from the start.
“Day one” Jennings said. “Literally. I say that humbly. My first day. Since then we knew, this was for me. I felt it. There was no turning back because I was good. I was that good. Just imagine what it would have been like if I’d been doing it all along. Look at what it has become.”
Jennings has won his first 19 fights, 10 via knockout, but never has he faced a fighter as decorated or with as much girth as the 6-foot-6 Klitschko. However, possessing an 84-inch reach, compared to Klitschko’s 81, Jennings just might have the proper frame to get inside and neutralize the powerful jab that has crushed the rest of the heavyweight division over the last 11 years.
And there could be some form of home-ring advantage for Jennings’ upset bid, with Klitschko appearing in the ring stateside for the first time since 2008. Also taking place at The Garden, Klitschko easily dispatched Russia’s Sultan Ibragimov in a listless bout that ended in a 12-round decision. And ever since, Klitschko’s fought strictly in Germany, with one bout apiece in Russia and Switzerland the only exceptions.
Klitschko hinted that demand for his fights wasn’t exactly high in the U.S., but that now seems like the appropriate time for a return.
“It definitely was exciting times,” Klitschko said to the New York Post. “The demand was so strong on the European side. Now the demand is here. People want to see Klitschko fight a world championship fight here.”
Jennings, on the other hand, didn’t fight outside of his native Philadelphia until the fifth bout of his career, when he made the short trip to Newark, New Jersey. Only once has he fought outside of the tristate or mid-Atlantic region, recording a six-round unanimous decision win over little-known Theron Johnson in Las Vegas back in 2011.
Book makers seem to believe Jennings will be able to last more than 6.5 rounds against Klitschko. The chances of the bout moving beyond the halfway point are at -190, compared to +135 for less than 6.5 rounds. That’s a particularly interesting line, given Klitschko’s power and huge KO numbers. He’s won five of his last six fights by KO or technical knockout, with most coming either in the sixth or a round or two before.
The odds Klitschko records a KO, TKO or wins by disqualification are set at -500, and via a decision at +400. And the longer the fight lasts, Jennings chances diminish significantly. A Jennings victory in the first to third rounds is at 30/1, then jumps to 35/1 from the fourth to sixth round, 40/1 from the seventh to ninth, and 50/1 in the last two rounds.
Checkout the full list of odds and prop bets at Bovada.lv here.
Prediction: Jennings certainly has the reach and the power to pull off an upset, but Klitschko’s too savvy and experienced. Expect Klitschko to weigh down Jennings in the first six rounds, and for Jennings to become more susceptible to being hit by punishing jabs as he attempts to shock his opponent with a knockout punch. The champ won't get caught by serious power punches, which will effectively end Jennings' hopes for an upset.
Klitschko retains his titles via TKO in the eighth round.