Wladimir Klitschko has been boxing’s preeminent heavyweight champion for over a decade. The boxer has rarely been challenged during his 11 consecutive years of title defenses, but Bryant Jennings is looking to change that on Saturday.
The American will get his chance to become the world champion and bring the heavyweight title back to the United States. Klitschko’s return to Madison Square Garden marks his first bout on U.S. soil in over seven years, last fighting at MSG when he beat Sultan Ibragmiov to win the WBO heavyweight title on Feb. 23, 2008.
Klitschko hasn’t lost since he faced Lamon Brewster in 2004. The champ has won 21 consecutive fights, including a victory over Brewster when they met again three years later. Only five of Klitschko’s opponents were able to make it through the entire fight without losing by knockout. On Nov. 15, Klitschko knocked out Kubrat Pulev in the fifth round.
The champ’s dominance in the ring has made him an overwhelming favorite. At Bovada.lv, Klitschko has been given -1400 betting odds to hold onto his title. Jennings’ odds come in at +750.
Oddsmakers don’t expect the fight to go the full 12 rounds. Klitschko is a -500 favorite to win by KO, TKO or technical disqualification. An upset by Bryant is considered to be most likely by knockout, having been given +1000 odds of winning the fight in less than 12 rounds. Klitschko has lost three times in his career, all by TKO. Bryant’s odds of winning by decision are +2500.
A loss for Jennings would be the first of his career. He’s gone 19-0 since debuting in 2010, including his most recent victory over Mike Perez in July, coming via split decision. Having never been defeated, Bryant is confident that he will be the one to upset Klitschko, despite becoming a professional boxer just five years ago.
"But there are attributes I bring to the table, the same as those,” Jennings said, via The Philadelphia Daily News. “Experience plays a part, but not a big part, because we've seen situations where the less experienced guy comes out on top.
"I don't play that experience game, because everybody who I've faced has been more experienced than me. I first put on gloves 6 years ago and here I am, fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world."
One advantage that Bryant does have is a bigger reach. The 30-year-old’s 84-inch reach is longer than the 38-year-old Klitschko’s 81-inch reach. Klitschko is four inches taller than his opponent.
While Bryant is ready to prove the doubter’s wrong, there’s little reason to believe Klitschko won’t continue his dominance. Only Joe Louis has had a longer reign as the world heavyweight champion, and Klitschko has provided little evidence of slowing down.
A victory for Bryant would be one of the biggest upsets in recent memory, and he’ll surpass many experts’ expectations if he’s able to make it through all 12 rounds.
Prediction: Wladimir Klitschko by knockout