The champ returned to the Garden, and it sounded and felt like Kiev.
Ukraine's Wladimir Klitschko easily outpointed a game-but-outclassed Bryant Jennings in the champion's first fight in the United States in seven years, defending his heavyweight titles with a unanimous decision Saturday night.
Klitschko's last U.S. fight was right here on Feb. 23, 2008, when he easily won over Sultan Ibragimov. This was his fourth Garden bout, and it seemed comfortable and familiar.
“It is great to come back to Madison Square Garden, to be home here and fight here,” Klitschko said. “I look forward to coming back to fighting here, a great crowd and a great atmosphere.”
Klitschko was in control from the outset in his 18th straight successful defense. His jab and straight right hands kept Jennings from getting inside, and the unbeaten American had little chance of winning from distance.
The overwhelmingly pro-Klitschko crowd of 17,056 roared loudly with every thundering punch by the champ. They chanted Ukrainian slogans when he entered the arena and when the decision was announced: 116-111 on two cards, 118-109 on another.
Yet, with Jennings still standing in the middle rounds and beginning to land some punches, the Americans in the crowd began shouting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” But the Philadelphian never really had a chance and was outpunched 545-376, with 144 landing for Klitschko, 110 for the challenger.
“Jennings would have beaten a lot of heavyweights in the division,” Klitschko said. “He's a tough competitor.”
Klitschko is 64-3 and has held a heavyweight belt for nearly a decade. Jennings is 19-1.
Klitschko has won 21 straight bouts, and tied Joe Louis with 27 total heavyweight championship fights. He is 25-2 in those, while Louis was 26-1.
The low point for the 39-year-old Klitschko came in the 10th round, when he was penalized a point for holding. Jennings complained before the fight about that tactic, and referee Mike Griffin paid attention.
“Every time I started working, he held me,” Jennings said. “When he was holding I was hitting him to the body. I must have hit him with about 100 body shots, not that much to the head, though.
“I felt the margin should have been much closer.”