In the seven years since undisputed heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko climbed through the ropes on American soil, he has steamrolled the division, laying waste to everybody in his path. Most within boxing expected Philadelphia challenger Bryant Jennings to follow suit, but he didn’t.
Klitschko dominated the early stages of the fight with his telephone pole-like jab, preventing the smaller Jennings from getting on the inside. Jennings was relentless in his pursuit to make it a brawl, but Klitschko’s was nearly flawless in nullifying the plan. But as the fight wore on, Jennings grew more and more confident, letting his hands go and landing a plethora of punches from all angles.
Klitschko was cracked by several of Jennings’ left hooks and his body was battered throughout the middle and latter stages of the fight. Still, the defending champion kept his composure and repeatedly returned to the jab. And for good measure, “Dr. Steelhammer” crashed home a few of his trademark right hands, essentially stealing the rounds away from the American.
Klitschko had been making a mockery of the sport’s glamour division for years, but Jennings posed a different sort of threat to the Ukrainian giant. His athleticism and speed -- coupled with his determination -- forced the champ to earn every round he won.
“He’s a great athlete,” Klitschko said of Jennings after the fight. “Great desire to win and be champion. He had great hand speed and footwork. It kept me off-balance a lot.”
However effective Jennings was inside the ring, it wasn’t quite enough to wrest the world championship from Klitschko. The three ringside judges all favored the champ; they saw it 116-111 (twice) and 118-109 even with Klitschko being deducted a point in the tenth for repeated holding. Some of the rounds could have gone either way and the fight was arguably closer than the official scores suggested, but Klitschko was the clear-cut winner.
Jennings , now 19-1 with 10 KOs, agreed, to a degree.
“I thought the scorecards should have been a little closer,” the Philly fighter said afterward. “[Some rounds] could have gone either way. I don’t agree with that.”
In the end, Klitschko (64-3, 53 KOs) walked out the ring with his belts still in his possession, having defended a portion of the heavyweight crown 19 consecutive times now. He’s cleaned out the division and even though he’s 39, he doesn’t appear to be in any danger of losing his crown any time soon.
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