King Kong climbed to the spire of the Empire State Building in that unforgettable movie scene where he swatted airplanes like flies. On Wednesday, the Empire State Building became another site of a historic scene when two heavyweight boxers met face to face in a photo ops for their upcoming title bout in New York that has king kong-sized implications.
The Return of the Champion
Unified heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko will return to Madison Square Garden to face undefeated contender Bryant Jennings on April 25. The fight marks Klitschko’s first on U.S soil (and at MSG) since February 2008 when he defeated Sultan Ibragimov via unanimous decision. Overall, it will his fourth fight at the world’s most famous arena and the fifth for a Klitschko as older brother and retired former heavyweight champion Vitali also fought there once.
Klitschko has long wanted to fight again in the United States, but the lack of a marquee American opponent and the absence of an American TV network backing has made him fight in Europe in the last six years. But with Jennings’ rise to the heavyweight title picture, Klitschko now has both: a credible and top ranked American opponent backed up by a giant network in HBO. With things in place, Klitschko’s manager Brent Boente began negotiations last November to usher the return of the champion to America.
An Unbeatable Force
Klitschko (63-3 with 54 knockouts) is on a dominating run as an unbeatable force in heavyweight boxing. Since he recaptured the heavyweight title by knocking out American Chris Bryd in April 2006, Klitschko has made 17 consecutive one-sided title defenses and has unified the IFB, IBO, WBO and WBA titles and annexed the WBO belt in the process. Those 17 title defenses are the third most in heavyweight boxing history, behind only hall-of-famers Larry Holmes (20) and Joe Louis (25).
Aside from owning three of the four major alphabet belts, the 38 year old Ukrainian-born champion is also the division’s lineal champion. His current reign as world champion is the second longest in boxing history, behind the legendary Joe Louis’ record of 11 years, 8 months and 8 days. On April 22, three days before his fight with Jennings, Klitschko will have reigned as heavyweight boxing champion for nine long years.
Fighting an Inexperienced Challenger
Klitschko’s opponent does not have his long, impressive boxing resume. Bryant Jennings (19-0 with 10 knockouts) only turned pro in February 2010 or after Wladimir Kiltschko’s 59th bout. But the 30 year old Philadelphia native has climbed the ranks to earn his first ever world title shot. Jennings won the USBA heavyweight title in June 2012 and he is coming off back to back victories over undefeated contenders last year. He Knocked out Arthur Szpilka in January 2014 and decisioned Mike Perez in July 2014 to become the WBC’s number one heavyweight ranked contender.
Jennings was first in line to face newly crowned WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, but he gave up his mandatory challenger status in favor of a fight with Wladimir Klitschko. Just last month, Wilder became the first American boxing heavyweight titlist since Shannon Briggs in 2007. But between Wilder and Klitschko, Jennings chose to sign the bigger fight with the bigger reward. Wladimir Klitschko is the universally known heavyweight boxing champion and beating him would bring Jennings more glory aside from earning him a much bigger purse.