The world's long reigning heavyweight king was back in action last night as WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko fought in America for the first time in seven years, returning to Madison Square Garden in New York.
Big Wlad handled the challenge of undefeated American challenger Bryant Jennings on the scorecards without too much difficulty but the long reach, quick reflexes and aggressiveness of Jennings caused Klitschko some problems.
When Jennings stood outside, it was business as usual for Klitschko as he was dominant with a powerful left jab and in the early rounds, the champion simply backed up to negate the challenger's awkward rushes to get in close.
But as the bout wore on, Klitschko was less mobile and he got hit, mostly to the body, a fair bit by Jennings and resorted to his usual style of holding when the American got in close.
Because of the quickness of Jennings, Klitschko didn't throw as many right hands as usual but did land some right on the button, which didn't seem to affect the challenger.
Eventually, Klitschko lost a point for holding in the 10th round and that gave Jennings a little more freedom to operate as "Dr. Steelhammer" could no longer just grab him but Klitschko resorted to other tactics such as shoving and leaning on the challenger.
Jennings was hurt in the closing seconds of the contest but the bell rang before Klitschko could capitalize on that.
Klitschko improves to 63-3 (53) on scorecards of 116-111, 116-111 and a rather wide 118-109 and has now won 19 consecutive world title bouts going back to 2006.
Jennings, now 19-1 (10), suffers his first loss but should see his fortunes rise after this performance.
Klitschko, now 39 years old, may next have to face mandatory WBO challenger Tyson Fury next. Should that pairing occur, it will likely fill an outdoor stadium in the north of England, if it take place in Fury's homeland.
On Friday, there were two world title bouts on a bill in America, at UIC Pavilion in Chicago, on the Univ. of Illinois campus.
WBA middleweight "regular" champion Daniel Jacobs, 29-1 (26), retained his title for the first time with a 12th round TKO over challenger Caleb Truax, 25-2-2 (15).
The contest was hard fought, with changes in momentum but Truax, making a rare appearance against a top level opponent and participating in his first world title bout, did well, exposing the weak defense of Jacobs.
But it was the power of Jacobs which bailed him out as a late round rally knocked down Truax and then pummeled the Minnesota man until the fight was stopped at 2:12 of the 12th.
If he is to keep his title against elite competition, Jacobs must improve his defense or else he will have a very short reign.
Also in the lineup in Chicago, contender Badou Jack, 19-1-1 (12), unseated WBC super middle titlist Anthony Dirrell, 27-1-1 (22), in a brutal slugfest.
From the start, it appeared that underdog Jack was the stronger man and the Swedish born Las Vegas resident wasted no time in throwing Dirrell and around the ring, even body slamming the champion at one point.
As a result, Dirrell also got rough but could not keep up in this department. The fight featured both men putting knockout power into just about every shot they threw from the first bell.
It was a very entertaining fight with a lot of successful exchanges from both boxers. Dirrell appeared to be the better boxer but Jack simply would not back off and kept at it.
All the energy expended from throwing big shots and rough-housing took its toll on Dirrell in the later rounds as he was clearly tired, while Jack was still on his toes and pressing the action.
When the cards were read, Jack produced a big upset to win the WBC title by majority decision scores of 116-112,115-113 and 114-114.