by David P. Greisman, live at the scales
NEW YORK CITY — 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.
In the televised co-feature, welterweight prospect Sadam Ali will meet Francisco Santana. Ali came in at 146.8 pounds while Santana also made weight at 146.4 pounds.
Ali, 26, of nearby Brooklyn, New York, is 21-0 with 13 KOs. He is a 2008 Olympic alternate who turned pro at the beginning of 2009 and developed at a gradual base, stepping up last November with a ninth-round technical knockout of Luis Carlos Abregu.
Santana, 28, of Santa Barbara, California, is 22-3-1 with 11 KOs. Those defeats came against Karim Mayfield (once by split decision in 2008, once by technical knockout in 2009) and Jermell Charlo (by unanimous decision in 2011). His draw came against rising prospect Julian Williams, also in 2011. He’s won 10 in a row, including a first-round knockout of the 20-0 Kendal Mena this past January.
As for the rest of the undercard:
Charles Martin (243.6 pounds) vs. Tom Dallas (223 pounds)
Martin, a Missouri native now fighting out of California, celebrates his 29th birthday today — and is fortunate, as a heavyweight, that he could have his cake whenever he wished. He is 20-0-1 with 18 KOs, with his last appearance being a 10th round knockout of Raphael Zumbano Love in February. Martin’s scored 10 straight knockouts.
Dallas, a Brit who just celebrated his 30th birthday on Thursday, is 17-4 with 12 KOs. All four of those defeats have come in his past six fights, with losses to David Price (TKO2 in June 2011), Matt Skelton (TKO5 in March 2012), Tor Hamer (TKO1 in June 2012) and Ian Lewison (TKO2 in September 2013). That loss to Lewison was the last time Dallas was in the ring.
Iago Kiladze (199 pounds) vs. Rayford Johnson (196.8 pounds)
Kiladze, a 29-year-old who hails from Ukraine, is 22-1 with 15 KOs. His lone loss came in June 2013, a second-round knockout at the hands of Youri Kalenga (Kalenga later went on to challenge Denis Lebedev for a cruiserweight title). Since then, Kiladze has scored two consecutive technical knockout wins, the last one coming in November over Bjoern Blaschke.
Johnson, 34, of Longview, Texas, is 11-17 with 6 KOs. He tends to fight either as a cruiserweight or an undersized heavyweight. His last appearance was a March decision win over Andres Taylor.
Kenneth Sims Jr. (139.4 pounds) vs. Luis Rodriguez (139.2 pounds)
Sims, 21, is a prospect from Chicago who is 5-0 with 2 KOs. He is coming off a six-round decision win in January over Christian Steele.
Rodriguez, a 3-2 fighter from Carolina, Puerto Rico, has lost his last two bouts, suffering a second-round knockout to the 2-4 Jose Santiago in November 2013 and then spending time away from the ring before losing a six-round unanimous decision to the 4-0 Mykal Fox this past January.
Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide. Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]