WHEN Wladimir Klitschko fights on United States soil for the first time since February 2008 this weekend, he not only needs to woo a sceptical American public but demonstrate that, at 39, he is still the most formidable heavyweight on the planet and hasn't taken his eye off the punchball because of helping to fight Ukraine's political battles.

Klitschko Jennings

His overdue reappearance at Madison Square Garden in New York against the undefeated Bryant Jennings is an indication of whether he is becoming more vulnerable in his ring dotage, though I doubt that the smaller, less experienced Jennings has the craft or clout to relieve him of his WBA Super, WBO, IBF and IBO belts.

One man who will be keeping an observant eye on Klitschko's every move will be Tyson Fury, the British champion who is mandated to fight him next as No 1 contender for the WBO title. In the unlikely event of Klitschko getting clobbered, Fury, never tongue-tied, could be excused a few expletives.

I cannot see that happening. Although 30-year-old Jennings has a three-inch reach advantage and a 19-0 record, with 10 KOs, he has not really fought anyone of consequence. He's a real-life Rocky from Balboa territory in Philadelphia, who hopes to become the first unified American heavyweight champion in more than 13 years yet did not pull on a pair of gloves until six years ago. Mind you, we all remember what happened in Rocky...


Klitschko likes to hand-pick opponents to suit his style, which is why I believe he twice ducked fights with Dereck Chisora (before big bruv Vitali took on Del Boy). Jennings fits the bill - but like Chisora, Fury certainly doesn't.

There are plenty who scoff at the lippy, giant Traveller's chances of toppling Wlad the Impaler. Fury is a young man of swirling contradictions. To some, like his Tyson namesake, he can be an absolute charmer one day and irritatingly profane the next. But his uncle and trainer Peter seems to have got him into shape physically and mentally of late.

At 6ft 9in he's bigger by a couple of inches, at 26 some 13 years younger and has the ability to switch-hit by turning southpaw, which "Dr Steelhammer" doesn't seem to like. Fury matches him in almost every department, and I believe he has more heart. Although he's been put on the deck, he gets up to win and always takes the fight to his opponent.

Also there's the question of motivation. One wonders whether boxing is of secondary importance now that Wladimir has found fatherhood later in life. He admits too that his thoughts are often with Vitali, who retired as the WBC champion and has been elected mayor of Kiev, capital of their troubled homeland. All of which can be a distraction when you are preparing to match Joe Louis's record of 27 heavyweight title fights.

Should he beat Jennings we have 30 days to put together the fight with Fury before it goes to purse offers. I really want the bout to happen here in Britain, where it can attract a 50,000-plus crowd, more than it would in Germany, Klitschko's preferred boxing base.

Both Wladimir and his brother have the reputation of being gentlemen scholars - both have PhDs. But don't be fooled by that Mr Nice Guy guff. Some of the things that have gone on behind the scenes when you fight the Klitschkos in Germany would shock you. They are past masters at trying to mess up their opponent's mind. Great fighters, though - in and out of the ring.

May Pac

Gym gossip will not shake my ??10 on the Money Man

Whispers coming out of the Mayweather training camp may give Manny Pacquiao some heart. They say 38-year-old Floyd is not looking that sharp, getting caught in sparring with the sort of punches he usually slips quite easily. Are the years- and the legs - catching up with him? We'll see in a week. What happens in the gym is one thing, in the ring another. My tenner's still on the Money Man.