Prizefight Preview: Klitschko Returns to America
- Updated: April 24, 2015
Wladimir Klitschko (63-3, 53 KOs) sits atop a rarefied mountain in the sport of boxing; a monolith with no real challengers to bring him down in the last several years in which he has held the heavyweight title. That title was earned through a transformation which took place within the Olympian, as he transformed himself from a glass jaw novice to a Teflon destroyer under the tutelage of the late Emmanuel Steward. And while that transformation has been remarkable – as has his dominance of the heavyweight division since 2006 – his legacy in the United States is largely ignored by those outside the hardcore fandom of the sport. Most Americans know Wladimir more for his wife than his in-ring dominance. That development is largely owing to two parts: there has been a dearth of credible opposition within the heavyweight division and due to the fact that Wladimir has not fought in the United States since 2008 or, in other words, before Barack Obama would ever step foot in the White House as president. At least one of those factors changes on Saturday night, April 25th, when Wladimir steps into the ring against Bryant Jennings (19-0, 10 KOs) at the storied Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. It will certainly be a spectacle, but will a credible challenger actually emerge to liven up the reign of Klitschko?
Bryant Jennings of Philadelphia, PA is a solid fighter, who has earned his shot through emerging from the since-discontinued Main Event Promotions’ NBC Sports channel series and taking that opportunity and parlaying it into bigger opportunities with a new promoter and HBO. Although his record is glossy, his opponents are hardly a murderer’s row of combatants nor are his amateur credentials much to be amazed at. Jennings, to his credit, however, has always shown up and performed. He’s not a big puncher, but he can make for good fights and his technical skills are well above-average for an American heavyweight. Additionally, Jennings has steadily improved since emerging in the public eye back in 2012 and he’s been brought along smartly in an era where handlers are quick to cash in. But it’s hard to say that he’s in this spot because he’s beaten top-level guys who would have been credible in the heavyweight divisions of yesteryear, rather he’s stayed unbeaten in televised fights and he’s a notable name to place in front of Wladimir as he makes his return to the United States.
However, that’s not to say that Jennings is a lost cause. He’s certainly a more alive opponent than many of Wladimir’s recent opposition and he’s a respectable 6’3 which may negate some of Wladimir’s infamous leaning tactics used to weaken his usually smaller position. Additionally, Wladimir is 39 and his exploits outside the ring are far more varied than what they were five years ago when he was chomping through tomato cans at a rate of one fight every three months. So a respectable showing by Jennings should not be discounted. However, a clear victory is a premise that is much harder to envision…
So, with that thought in mind, the question becomes whether Saturday night represents anything more than a victory lap for Wladimir as he begins to wind down his career? A return to the United States meant to be a reminder to American fight fans that he never truly went away? The answer is no, of course. Klitschko can not be blamed for the poor class of opponent which has befallen him in recent years. With no credible opponents on the horizon, Klitschko simply went to work on those that stood as the next best option and he did it quite well. The criticisms of Wladimir’s career are largely unfounded, probably owing to the fact that Wladimir’s dominance in the heavyweight division coincided with him taking a much more caution and tactical approach to fighting, and thus not producing as many must-see fights. Furthermore, Jennings represents the next generation of fighters seeking to dethrone the man and Klitschko, again, is welcoming of all comers. After Jennings is likely to come such names as Tyson Fury and David Price who will get their cracks at the Ukrainian before he finally retires. American fight fans should relish this opportunity, because a truly great heavyweight champion, such as Wladimir, is unlikely to return anytime soon.