NEW YORK – At an afternoon press conference at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, RING, IBF, WBO and WBA heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and challenger Bryant Jennings officially announced their April 25 title fight, which will be broadcast live on HBO and in over 150 countries outside the United States.
This will be the 18th consecutive title defense for Klitschko (63-3-0, 54 knockouts) and his first in the U.S. since he defeated Sultan Ibragimov at The Garden in 2008.
Jennings (19-0-0, 10 KOs) is coming off his split-decision victory over Mike Perez last July and is predicting the judges will not be needed for this fight.
“This fight will end in a knockout,” said Jennings. “It’s going to be either him or me. Don’t think it will be me.”
Officials from MSG announced that more than 5,000 tickets were sold on the first day they were made available and said this was one of the largest pre-sales in the venue’s history.
“This is the biggest stage in the world,” said Klitschko. “Every performer wants to perform here. It means you made it.”
Klitschko first fought at The Garden on the undercard of the Lennox Lewis-Michael Grant title fight in 2000. His opponent was David Bostice, whom he knocked out in the second round.
“It’s so great to be in New York and this feels like my very first time fighting here,” Klitschko added. “I’m excited to perform for my fans in New York and in the United States.”
HBO Sports President Ken Hershman said this will be Klitschko’s 20th appearance on HBO.
“The older Wladimir gets, the more seemingly invincible he becomes,” said Hershman.
Jennings’ promoter, Gary Shaw, believes it will Jennings’ heart and athleticism which will be the defining factor in the fight.
“One guy likes to hold and lean and the other guy is younger and faster,” said Shaw.
Shaw reminded the media that 25 years ago this month James “Buster” Douglas shocked the world when he knocked out Mike Tyson, and predicted another such upset.
“You can’t measure anyone’s heart in the ring,” said Shaw, “and Bryant has been working out to carry all five of Klitschko’s belts (Klitschko also holds the IBO title) out of the ring.”
According to Shaw, all the pressure will be on Klitschko and he believes Jennings will have the home-crowd advantage.
“If Klitschko gets old in that ring Bryant will be there to capitalize,” added Shaw.
According to Jennings’ head trainer, Fred Jenkins, Klitschko’s camp first called him 3 years ago. However, it wasn’t for a fight but to hire Jennings as a sparring partner, which they turned down on more than one occasion.
Klitschko acknowledged that a date with new WBC heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder is inevitable but for now he is keeping his focus on Jennings.
“Jennings is a tough challenger and I must be ready for everything,” Klitschko said. “I know he will prepare well for this opportunity.”
Klitschko then looked out at the media members assembled and proclaimed with a smile as broad as his shoulders.
“I’m the baddest man on the planet.”