Heavyweight legend Wladimir Klitschko says public demand pushed him to return to US soil for the first time in seven years.
The undisputed world number one last fought in America back in 2008 when he outpointed sturdy Russian Sultan Ibragimov at the fabled Madison Square Garden in New York.
He now returns to ‘The Mecca of Boxing’ when he takes on undefeated Philadelphian challenger Bryant Jennings, live and exclusive on BoxNation, with the Ukrainian ace saying his hand was forced due to US fight fans eager to see him in the flesh once again.
“It’s not just my own decision; it’s the demand. The demand was so strong – I’m thankful the demand was so strong from public. We can see it in ticket sales; Madison Square Garden wants to see a Klitschko fight and that was supported by the fans because of ticket sales,” said Klitschko.
“Also, from television, the demand is so big that it made me, forced me to come here and fight in the States. On the other hand, I’m really happy about it because the demand in Europe was so strong.
“For the past years I’ve been fighting at soccer stadiums filled out with over 60,000 people and it’s a question of demand. And I’m really, really happy about it, that boxing kicks in eventually and is unbelievably popular right now in the States.
“You really can see it and hear it on the radio and a lot of different channels with all the fight nights and it’s a great time. I think it’s the right time, right place and the right opponent to make it,” he said.
39-year-old Klitschko, who will need to face his mandatory Tyson Fury next up if he prevails, will be putting his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts on the line against the slick Jennings, who has won all 19 of his fights.
Jennings credentials as a legitimate contender have long been mooted and on Saturday night Klitschko is expecting a thrilling fight and is hoping his opponent will stand and trade with him.
“I’m prepared for Bryant Jennings. I’m not going to underestimate him by no means. I’m not going to overestimate him by no means because as I said, we’re all limited, including myself. So we can only fight in the way we can fight and I think that it’s going to be an exciting fight,” said Klitschko.
“Why? Because Bryant Jennings is pretty much at home. He’s going to have a lot of support in the arena and he’s highly motivated, he’s very energetic, he’s a little hyper type of fighter, and he moves a lot, he’s very athletic, but hopefully he’s not going to move around too much, he’s going to come to fight the same way as Pulev did.
“He didn’t move around much. He just came in and was throwing punches and being aggressive. So I’m hoping and expecting that Bryant Jennings is going to give me a fight where he’s going to be aggressive,” he said.
Some feel the opportunity may have come too soon for 30-year-old Jennings who started his career late at 24 after having played local league basketball and up until just last year was working as a maintenance man at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
Jennings is unfazed, however, facing the 1996 Olympic gold medalist, who is unbeaten in 11 years, believing experience won’t be the telling factor in this fight.
“Experience plays a part but it’s not a big part because we’ve seen situations where the inexperienced guy comes out on top whether it’s in sports, whether it’s in politics, whether it’s in anything,” said Jennings.
“I don’t pretty much play that experience game because everybody who I face has more experience than me. I first put on the gloves six years ago and here I am fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world.
“I’m aware of the specimen in Wladimir. He’s a very dedicated individual. He’s always been. He appears to live the clean life and he’s a 100% athlete. There’s a lot of things that I’ll be taking on come Saturday, but there are some things that I bring to the table as well.
“I’ll be what I think is the fourth Philly-born heavyweight to ever fight for a title and the second Philly-born heavyweight to ever win it once I become champion,” he said.
Klitschko v Jennings is live on BoxNation (Sky 437/490HD, Virgin 546 and TalkTalk 525) this Saturday night at 1am. Visit BoxNation to subscribe.