WBO, WBA, IBF and IBO heavyweight champion Wladimir "Dr. Steelhammer" Klitschko (64-3) won on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, but it wasn't as easy as most of his title defenses. American Bryant Jennings (19-1) gave it all he had, but he dropped a unanimous decision in a fairly competitive bout.
Here are the official scorecards per ESPN.com's Dan Rafael:
It seemed clear Jennings' plan was to wear the champion down in an effort to stop him late. Klitschko showed excellent stamina, poise and concentration in response. He is often criticized for his rule-bending tactics, but referee Michael Griffin was determined not to allow Klitschko to push the envelope. Griffin even took a point away from the champion in the tenth round for excessive holding.
Klitschko didn't panic; he made enough of an adjustment to avoid any further penalty but still maintained the physical advantages his height and weight afford him.
As usual, Klitschko's jab was his primary weapon. He controlled distance and set up the occasional hard right hand to do the majority of notable work. Some of the power 1-2 combinations would have dropped lesser challengers, but Jennings proved to have a strong and sturdy chin.
If Jennings was badly affected by any of Klitschko's shots, he has an excellent poker face.
Jennings had occasional moments with a couple hard right hands and some incidental body shots during the clinch, but it was nothing that put the champion in any peril. We're so used to seeing Klitschko completely dominate the opposition that many of us might be a little guilty of overvaluing the work Jennings did.
The CompuBox numbers accurately depict the Klitschko's superior work in the fight.
Even though he won, the reviews weren't glowing for the champion. Undisputed Champion Network's Steve Kim says he saw some slippage in Klitschko's game. He wonders how WBC titleholder Deontay Wilder would fare against Klitschko.
That's a fight most fans would love to have seen on Saturday night. With all due respect to Jennings, who made a great account of himself, Wilder is a far more intriguing opponent. As game as Jennings was, the height disparity still seemed to be an insurmountable impediment.
Because Wilder is 6'7" and athletic, we could see a different dynamic in that matchup.
Klitschko was asked about a potential rematch with Jennings, but the champion didn't sound too interested in that bout. He talked instead about his mandatory obligations to meet the No. 1 contenders for all four of his world titles, per the HBO broadcast.
Honestly, despite the competitive energy in this bout, there wasn't enough there to make a rematch compelling.
Jennings would need more seasoning before he could even hope to improve the results in a rematch. He only took up the sport six years ago, and the lack of experience showed. Jennings' best bet might be to simply wait Klitschko out.
At 39, the champion can't fight forever. Jennings could very well be a part of the younger group of heavyweights who can reign once Dr. Steelhammer hangs up his gloves.
As for now, Klitschko is still the king of the hill.
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