While the boxing world remains focused on Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao meeting next week in Las Vegas, Saturday night’s matchup at Madison Square Garden in New York will provide a reminder that there are divisions in boxing other than welterweight.
Undefeated challenger Bryant Jennings (19-0) challenges heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (63-3), with the Ukranian entering the bout holding five title belts. There have been few opponents who have provided much of a test for Klitschko, and Jennings is not expected to change that trend. Jennings is a 7/1 underdog to beat the 39-year-old.
The last time Klitschko lost was a shock knockout defeat to Lamon Brewster in April 2004. Eleven years later, Klitschko is the second longest reigning heavyweight champion of all-time, and has won 21 consecutive fights, with wins over Samuel Peter, Chris Byrd, Brewster, Hasim Rahman, David Haye, and Alexander Povetkin in what has been a quiet period for heavyweights.
Jennings, 30, grew up in boxing city of Philadelphia as a multisport star. He took up boxing at age 24, and has moved up the ranks, making quick work of most of his opponents. He has 10 knockouts, and is coming off a unanimous-decision win over Cuban Mike Perez at the Garden.
Klitschko described Jennings as a “top contender” and expects the crowd to be pulling for a boxer who grew up roughly 100 miles away.
“I think Bryant is Rocky Balboa,” Klitschko said Wednesday. “He's someone who started late in boxing. He's a top contender. I can see the desire and will, the way he carries himself. Makes me think this fight is going to be exciting. This is his life chance."
A big question surrounding this fight is whether Klitschko still has the desire in him to compete. Approaching retirement age, he became engaged to actress Hayden Panettiere, with the couple recently celebrating the birth of their daughter Kaya. Klitschko also has a new trainer in Jonathan Banks.
The main event fight is expected to begin at roughly 11:15 p.m.
On the undercard, undefeated welterweight Sadam Ali (21-0) of Brooklyn faces Francisco Santana (22-3) of Santa Barbara, California.
TV Channel: HBO (U.S); BoxNation (U.K.)
Live Stream Info: BoxNation subscribers go to LiveSport.TV
Prediction: Klitschko by TKO in Round 9