I doubt anybody who watched heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko beat Bryant Jennings in Madison Square Garden on Saturday night will argue that the challenger from Philadelphia deserved to win. But after a spirited effort in defeat, Jennings’ stock might continue to edge upwards anyway.
Klitschko has been untouchable for over a decade and hasn’t had a fight in years that was even remotely close. It might be exaggerating to call Jennings’ loss close, but he did earn three rounds on two judging cards. The last time an opponent won as many rounds against Klitschko was in 2008 against Sultan Ibragimov, in Klitschko’s last trip to Madison Square Garden.
Jennings show very little offensive output, averaging just 31 punches a round for the fight. But his athletic, tactical movement seriously minimized Klitschko’s normally dangerous attack. Klitschko’s legendary jab was effective, but he struggled to get into position to land on Jennings with the big right hand.
For a fight who only took up boxing at age 24, Jennings’ effort has to be seen as impressive. In the past few years, as his level of competition has risen, Jennings has continued to improve. Against by far his toughest opponent to date, he fought what was possibly his best fight yet.
At age 39, Klitschko is clearly nearing the end of his career. Jennings should remain in his wake as one of the division’s most talented and experienced contenders to inherit the crown.
According to the BBC, the champ has already tapped undefeated Irish-English contender Tyson Fury as his next opponent. I would love to see Jennings face WBC belt hold Deontay Wilder later this year, in a showdown between the United States’ two best hopes at heavyweight.
On Friday night in Chicago, Badou Jack took the WBC belt off from Anthony Dirrell by majority decision. I’m in the position of needing to eat some crow over that one, as I have always been very open about expressing the opinion that Jack is a pretender. In Friday’s preview, I predicted an easy win for Dirrell. Jack is slated to face George Grove in his first defense. If he can keep the belt against Grove, I hop Jack will fight a rematch with Derek Edwards, who knocked him out in Round 1 in February 2014. Edwards is a likable, blue-collar fighter who deserves a title shot, especially against a high-profile fighter he was able to catch with a knockout shot.
On the undercard of the Jack-Dirrell fight, Daniel Jacobs stopped Caleb Truax by Round 12 TKO.