By: William Holmes
The last undercard bout of the night ended forty minutes before the start of the televised portion of the main event. but Madison Square Garden began to fill up during the break and was nearly full by the time the national anthems were sung.
The Ukranian flags were out in full force and it was evident that even though this fight is in the United States, most of the fans in attendance were here to see world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko fight.
The first bout of the televised card was in the welterweight division between Brooklyn’s Sadam Ali (21-0) and Francisco Santana (22-3-1).
Ali is a native of Brooklyn and he had fellow Brooklyn resident Paulie Malignaggi in his corner. This fight was for the WBO Inter-Continental Welterweight title and was scheduled for ten rounds.
Both boxers fought out of an orthodox stance and Ali was working his jab early and tied up with Santana whenever he got near. Ali had the quicker hands and was able to show a good variety of angles with his punches.
Ali started off the second round by connecting with a short right uppercut on Santana as he came forward. Ali’s combinations were landing at a high clip, while Santana was only able to bounce punches off the arms of Ali.
Ali continued to get his punches off first in the third round, while Santana was ineffective at trapping his opponent. Ali continued to stick and move in the idle rounds and tied up whenever Santana got in tight. It was obvious by the fifth round that Santana was not going to outbox Ali and needed a knockdown to stand a shot at winning.
Ali’s footwork helped him avoid damage in the sixth and seventh round and he was able to land clean, effective counters on the always coming forward
Santana. Santana’s best round of the night was the ninth round as he was able to land some good shots while Ali appeared to take the round off, but Santana’s face was showing the effects of Ali’s activity and work rate.
Santana needed a knockout by the final round in order to win, but instead was hurt several times from Ali’s left hook and short uppercuts. Santana, to his credit, was able to stay on his feet for the entire fight.
The judges scored it 97-93, 97-93, and 100-90 for Ssadam Ali.
The main event of the night was between world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (63-3) and Bryant Jennings (19-0) for Klitschko’s WBA, WBO, IBF, and IBO Heavyweight titles.
Jennings was the first man to enter the ring and Klitschko entered second, but it was Klitschko who was greeted very favorably by the crowd.
Klitschko was greeted with loud chants at the start of the first round and looked to be significantly bigger than Jennings. Klitschko nearly ran to the center of the ring at the start of the first and both boxers appeared to be trying to feel each other out and find their range. Jennings tried to get in on Klitschko, but had to deal with Klitschko’s overbearing size and Klitschko leaning in on him when he got in close.
Jennings tried to land his over the top right in the second round, but Klitschko’s jab was able to keep Jennings at bay while he landed his jab cross combination. Klitschko’s right hand was landing with regularity in the third round, but Jennings was attacking the body when he got in tight and may have scored some points with the judges with short hooks to the body.
Klitschko had Jennings stunned in the fourth round early with a straight right hand, and he was landing his two-punch combinations and able to tie up whenever Jennings got in tight. Klitschko had a piston-like jab in the fifth round, but Jennings made Klitschko pay for tying up with good effective body punches. Jennings had a good fifth round and may have stolen it on some cards.
Klitschko showed signs of tiring in the sixth round as Jennings picked up his activity, but Jennings was only able to land body shots and was never able to really land shots upstairs on Klitschko. Jennings got tagged with some combinations in the seventh and responded by mocking Klitschko, but he was unable to mount an effective offense.
Jennings may have momentarily stunned Klitschko in the eighth round with a left hook upstairs but Klitschko responded with some hard shots of his own that Jennings took very well. Jennings ended the eighth round with three straight clean jabs.
Klitschko was able to side step Jennings when he rushed forward in the ninth and tenth rounds and ate a few hard straight right hands when he came forward. Klitschko was deducted a point in the tenth round for leaning on Jennings, but by this point he was comfortably ahead on the scorecards.
Jennings looked like the fresher fighter in the eleventh round and was able to land more shots to the body, but Klitschko ended the fight strong in the twelfth round and may have landed his best punch of the night as the last round came to a close, one that bloodied Jennings’ mouth and had him on wobbly legs as the fight ended.
Jennings had a much better fight than expected, but it was Klitschko who won the fight easily on the scorecards. The judges scored it 116-111, 116-111, and 118-109 for Wladimir Klitschko.
NON TV Under Card
The doors at Madison Square Garden opened up tonight at 7:00pm for the Klitschko vs. Jennings heavyweight title bout. Normally fight fans who arrive early have to sit through at least five fights before the televised portion of a card starts, but tonight’s undercard only featured three bouts.
The first bout of the night started at 7:40 p.m. and was between undefeated lightweight prospect Kenneth Sims Jr. (5-0) and Luis Rodriguez (3-2). Kenneth Sims Jr. is one of Gary Shaw Productions’ most highly prized prospects.
This bout was scheduled for six rounds and Kenneth Sims started off in an orthodox stance while Rodriguez fought as a southpaw. Sims started off the bout by attacking the body early and landing clean left hooks to the head of his opponent. Sims was also showing good upper body movement in the first and was also switching stances from orthodox to southpaw consistently.
Sims continued to switch stances for the entire bout, but he was able land his lead hand hooks no matter what stance he was in. Sims wasn’t quite as aggressive in the second round as he was in the first round, but he was still able to win the round.
The third round was also a clear round for Sims as he was picking Rodriguez apart one punch at a time. Sims did land a low blow in the third round and Rodriguez was given time to recover, but he continued to dominate in the second half of the third round and was fighting comfortably at a distance.
The fourth round was quiet in action and Sims looked like he was trying new things inside the ring whether it was from a southpaw stance or an orthodox stance.
Rodriguez’s best round of the night was in the fifth round as he landed an early over the top left hand and was able to land some good combinations when he exchanged with Sims, but Sims took back over the fight in the sixth round as he was swinging wildly and forcing his opponent to fight off of his back foot.
The final scores of the night were 59-55, 60-54, and 60-54 for Kenneth Sims Jr.
The next bout of the night was between Iago Kiladze (22-1) of the Ukraine and Raford Johnson (11-17) in the Cruiserweight division. There was a large contingent or Ukranians in attendance and they made their voices heard as Kiladze walked into the ring.
Kiladze had fifteen knockouts on his record going into this bout and looked to be a good half a foot taller than his opponent. Johnson started off by crouching low and showing good upper body movement, but Kiladze was able to land a straight right hand that momentarily set Johnson off balance and set the pace for the rest of the fight.
Kiladze landed a hard left uppercut in the second round and had Johnson backing into a corner for most of the round. Kiladze was opening up more in the second round, but Johnson was able to frustrate Kiladze with his head and upper body movement.
Kiladze began to really take over the fight in the third round when Johnson’s defensive movements started to slow and become more predictable. Kiladze had Johnson stunned at least once in the third round from a hard straight right hand. Johnson’s best move of the night was his round ending double leg takedown that might have scored him points if this was an MMA fight.
Kiladze jab was finding it’s home at the start of the fourth round and Johnson had a much more difficult time slipping the combinations of Kiladze in the third in comparison to the earlier rounds. Kiladaze eventually had Johnson badly hurt with a combination that featured a wicked right hand that seemingly had Johnson out on his feet.
The referee jumped in and stopped the bout at 2:59 of the fourth round.
The last fight on the undercard was between Charles Martin (20-1-1) and Tom Dallas (17-4) in the heavyweight division.
Martin is a southpaw and has had a good professional career so far including a win over Joey Dawejko. Martin was landing his jab early in the first round and was throwing and landing his straight left hand behind his right hook. A right hook by Martin stunned Dallas by the ropes and opened up a cut by his left eye. Martin followed that up with a straight left hand that had Dallas hurt bad and covering up.
The referee jumped in the moment Dallas covered up defensively and gave Martin the TKO victory at 2:56 of round one.