Klitschko vs Jennings Prediction
It’s Time to Draw ‘The Line’ On Our Criticism of Dr. Steelhammer
“It’s a has-been/never-gonna-be world.”
Uttered in passing by an insignificant character in 2006’s underrated sixth ‘Rocky’ instalment, it was never designed to be one of the film’s stand-out quotes. And yet it has always resonated with me personally, as a boxing fan, and strikes as more poignant with each passing year spent watching the sport we love.
The Rocky films always had a penchant for boxing premonitions. Rocky Balboa’s antagonist Mason ‘The Line’ Dickson (played by Antonio Tarver) is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, shunned by the boxing public for the wake of tomato can opponents he has left twitching on the canvas. In an homage to 1970’s simulated ‘Super Fight’ between Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali, the film depicts a computer-generated fight between the much maligned current champion, Dixon, and boxing’s favourite people’s champion of a bygone era, ‘The Italian Stallion.’ And although the film itself is a direct affront to the premise it explores and looks to somewhat quash, the result of its televised computer fight had many boxing fans nod with a rather disturbingly hasty satisfaction; ‘older is always better.’
Nine years removed from Rocky VI, the current real-life heavyweight kingpin faces an eerily similar plight to that of ‘The Line.’
“In truth, the closest Wladimir Klitshcko has ever come to fighting a fellow heavyweight great came during the filming of Steven Soderbegh’s Ocean’s Eleven.”
With the thousands in attendance and the millions watching around the world ready to rumble, Michael Buffer will spell it out for us beneath the lights of Madison Square Garden on Saturday night: 66 fights. 63 victories. 53 victories coming by way of knockout. With only 3 defeats. He’ll list the belts, and will likely mention that the man he is describing is the second longest-reigning heavyweight champion in boxing history, behind only the great Joe Louis.
What he won’t tell us is that, despite this remarkable list of accolades which rivals that of any historical heavyweight great on paper, Wladimir Klitschko still stands trial in front of the scornful jury of boxing’s ‘back in my day’ brigade.
Their argument is a simple one, and far from unfair: “Who has he fought?”
The truth of course is that, when judged within the pound-for-pound paradigm which allows us to salivate over our treasured ‘mythical matchups,’ despite massive size and weight differentials in heavyweight boxing throughout the various eras of the sport, not many – if any – opponents of Dr. Steelhammer would have lasted 12 rounds with the heavyweight legends we incessantly yearn for; Louis. Ali. Foreman. Frazier. Early ‘90s Tyson. What we can at times fail to acknowledge when examining the Ukrainian colossus’ career is that only 10 of 63 conquered opponents have lasted the distance with Klitschko himself.
It has unequivocally been a dire decade-and-a-half for boxing’s glamour division, so much so that the title of ‘baddest man on the planet’ now belongs to either middleweight Gennady Golovkin or a mixed martial artist of some description. In truth, the closest Wladimir Klitshcko has ever come to fighting a fellow heavyweight great came during the filming of Steven Soderbegh’s Ocean’s Eleven.
“Rarely, in any era of the sport, has there been a champion so dominant that it becomes a borderline honour to play the lucrative method role of sacrificial lamb at his mercy.”
But an equally pertinent question must surely be posed before damning the Ukrainian’s reign to the ‘by the way’ section of boxing’s back pages; In his nine year spell as a world heavyweight champion, who hasn’t Wladimir Klitschko fought?
Since his first defeat to Ross Purrity in 1998, Klitschko has toppled 8 undefeated challengers, 12 former or (then) current world champions, and emerged victorious in 24 of his 26 world championship fights – 19 of which were stoppage victories – including his last 18 in a row, with 13 stoppages.
To examine the heavyweight champion’s resumé within the perspective of May 2nd’s mega-fight in Las Vegas, Wladimir Klitschko has never had a ‘Canelo,’ not to mention an Oscar De La Hoya or a Manny Pacquiao. What should have been his biggest bout was, in terms of entertainment, a farce, as David Haye – considered by many a legitimate threat – skipped around the ring with such zealous that he may have ended up in neighbouring Bremen were it not for a broken toe.
With the one remaining all-time great of the early Klitschko era, Lennox Lewis, retiring three years prior to Wladimir’s 7th round TKO of Chris Byrd for the IBF world title in 2006, Dr. Steelhammer was instead forced to turn to systematically bludgeoning every B-level pretender to his throne into submission for nine consecutive years.
Rarely, in any era of the sport, has there been a champion so dominant that it becomes a borderline honour to play the lucrative method role of sacrificial lamb at his mercy.
So long has been his tenure as world champion, it’s only natural that we tune in to see if he can finally be usurped; we’ve done it with Floyd Mayweather fights for the bones of 20 years. But in a week where Mayweather was perceived to spit on the legacies of Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson by declaring himself a superior fighter, it seems important to point out one key difference between the pound for pound king and the heavyweight champion within the context of their own respective future standings.
We live in an era where, when one dominant sporting force begins to establish his or her greatness within their respective timeframe, we instantaneously feel the need to compare them to history’s all-time greats; Messi or Maradona? LeBron or Jordan? Brady or Montana?
To be fair to Floyd Mayweather, he simply answered the same type of mundanely routine question. The difference with Wladimir Klitschko is that each time he enters the ring, he looks to further ingrain himself as the best heavyweight fighter of his own time – not anybody else’s – so that he can one day be mentioned in the same breath as the Muhammad Alis and George Foremans of yesteryear. He carries with him the pressure that, with one drop of his seemingly impermeable guard, his legacy will be flushed to the drains of heavyweight folklore, at least outside of Germany and eastern Europe. A fraud. A pretender. Finally exposed.
It’s why he cultivated a night on indestructible defence under the tutelage of Manny Steward after three shock defeats. It’s why he integrated his out-of-ring intelligence and PHD in Sports Science to adopt a calculated and deadly approach to the sport he loves. It’s why he has forged one of the most effective straight right hands in heavyweight boxing history.
Conventionally entertaining? Perhaps not. But it is an approach that has culminated in legendary achievements. This month eleven years ago, Wladimir Klitschko was rushed to hospital with a suspected brain haemorrhage following this third stoppage defeat to LA’s Lamon Brewster. This Saturday, he makes an 18th consecutive world title defence. How’s that for legacy?
It all gets put on the line once again this weekend.
Make no mistake about it, Philadelphia’s 19-0 (10Kos) Bryant Jennings enters his own date with destiny in the Mecca of Boxing as a legitimate, world class heavyweight contender. At 6’3, Jennings perhaps surprisingly carries a 3-inch reach advantage over the taller champion, and has stated his intention – or at least, ability – to box Klitschko from range.
It will be his only hope of surviving 12 rounds.
Jennings’ impressive if controversial defeat of Cork’s Mike Perez made for a fascinating contest, and ‘By-By’ would likely mix well with fellow heavyweight challengers Alexander Povetkin, Tyson Fury and Bermane Stiverne. However, the 30 year old doesn’t possess the stand-out power or athleticism to truly trouble Klitschko in New York.
In truth, for now, nobody does. And that includes megastar-in-waiting Deontay Wilder.
Like 53 before him, Bryant Jennings will gallantly fall as the Steel Hammer is unleashed from its lofty perch. There will be no shame in it, for in this age of interim titles, emeritus champions, diamond belts and inter-galactic super straps, THE heavyweight championship of the world belongs to Wladimir Klitschko. And it’s high time we paid him his dues.
Official Prediction: Klitschko TKO9
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