Boxing’s biggest men don’t have a weight limit to make, but the numbers on the scale still represent the kind of shape they’re in. Wladimir Klitschko and Bryant Jennings both showed up in excellent condition for their heavyweight championship fight being held Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in an HBO main event.
Klitschko came in at 241.6 pounds, well within his usual wheelhouse, as the 6-foot-6 champ tends to be anywhere between 240 and 249. Jennings, meanwhile, came in at 226.8 pounds, and the 6-foot-3 challenger usually ranges between 220 and 230.
Jennings is the mandatory challenger to one of Klitschko’s three sanctioning body world titles. He is also the latest in a long line of men to try to challenge the dominant Ukrainian big man.
Klitschko reestablished himself more than a decade ago after a pair of crushing defeats — a second-round technical knockout to Corrie Sanders in 2003 followed a little later by a fifth-round stoppage loss to Lamon Brewster in 2004. He’d also lost a technical knockout back in 1998 to Ross Purrity. The Sanders loss had ended a title reign that had included five successful defenses. It seemed as if Wladimir’s older brother, Vitali, would be the sole Klitschko to rise to and remain in prominence.
But Wladimir regained his confidence and began to incorporate a strategy that protected his chin and dismantled his opponents. He’s won 21 in a row, picking up a world title with a 2006 win over Chris Byrd and defending it successfully 17 times since over pretty much everyone his division’s had to offer. Klitschko added a second sanctioning body belt in 2008, then became the new lineal heavyweight champion in the eyes of many with his 2009 victory over Ruslan Chagaev. He’s won 10 more times since then, is 63-3 with 53 KOs, and at 39 years old shows no signs of slipping.
Jennings will try to remove him from his throne nonetheless, although the 30-year-old from Philadelphia has had fewer pro fights than Klitschko has had title fights.
Jennings is 19-0 with 10 KOs. In 2014, he graduated from the NBC Sports Network circuit of opposition, fighting on HBO twice with a 10th-round technical knockout of Artur Szpilka and a razor-thin split decision over Mike Perez.