Johnathon Banks (right) will corner Wladimir Saturday in Hamburg.
It felt off, it looked off, as Wladimir Klitschko on Monday sat on the dais for his final press conference to hype his next bout, which unfolds Saturday against Mariusz Wach.
Emanuel Steward wasn't there. Sitting sagely, radiating serene intensity, which stemmed from his 30 years at the top of the training heap, breaking into that occasional bemused grin, with a visage that didn't betray his innermost belief, that the other guy on his best day likely wouldn't present any sort of a problem for Wlad, so long, tall, careful and powerful. For the first time since 2004, Steward wasn't to Wlad's right, a literal right hand man, and it hurt a bit to see that.
Wlad's first fight with Steward came against Lamon Brewster, and it didn't go smoothly; it was his second time getting his chin checked and not passing the test, within a year. But the big man and Steward clicked from then on, didn't they? I strongly suspect that while his heart will ache when he notes that it isn't Steward talking to him in between rounds, the absence of the Kronk sage won't diminish Wlad's efficacy, or lead to a stunner upset loss at the 02 Arena in Hamburg, Germany.
After Steward's death, on Oct. 25, Klitschko (58-3 with 50 KOs; age 36) spoke about the loss. “My team and I will carry on with the goals we had set while Emanuel was with us because that is exactly what Emanuel would have wanted. I know he will be with us in spirit along the way and we will accomplish these goals in his honor.” Fighter Johnathon Banks, a Stewart disciple, who fights Nov. 17 against Seth Mitchell, in AC, will corner Wlad on fight night.
The New Jersey resident Wach (27-0 with 15 KOs; age 32; from Krakow, Poland) has been trained by Juan DeLeon, the brother of ex cruiser champ Carlos DeLeon, who trained Buffalo contender Joe Mesi. At the Monday presser, Juan said the 6-7 1 2/ inch Wach has been training for the 6-6 Wlad since June. He said that he's been watching Wlad since 1996, assessing him. He knows Team Klitschko works hard, but he has “a great kid,” who “hungry” and “young.”
“On November tenth, I believe there is going to be a new champion,” De Leon said, echoing what the trainers for Tony Thompson, Jean Marc Mormeck, David Haye, Sam Peter, Eddie Chambers, Ruslan Chagaev, Hasim Rahman, Sultan Ibragimov, Brewster in the rematch, Ray Austin, Calvin Brock, Chris Byrd, Peter in their first scrap, Eliseo Castillo and DaVarryl Williamson said before their men climbed thru the ropes to meet the baby brother.
History, common sense and even our occasionally lying eyes, who have seen Wach unable to pull away and separate himself as much as you'd like against Tye Fields, in his last outing, in March (a TKO6 win) and Jason Gavern last November (a TKO6 win as well), tell us otherwise. There not be a new champion, quite likely, on Hamburg on Saturday.
Wach spoke Polish Monday, and Klitschko German, so there weren't any other verbal nuggets for me to mine from the presser. A translation was provided on the Klitschko website: “It took quite a time and I have put a huge effort in getting these belts,” Wlad said. “I am 100 per cent prepared to defend my titles again and I know what I will be facing in the ring on Saturday. I will defend the titles that I won together with Emanuel Steward.” Wach, in Polish, said, “I know it will be a very difficult fight but I am prepared for anything. If it’s gonna be 12 rounds, I am prepared, if it’s gonna be a technical fight I am prepared. I will do anything to get Klitschko’s titles. This fight will be very special and will be memorized by the boxing fans.”
Wlad did do an internet chat after the presser, on Google Plus, and during that he spoke in English about brother Vitali's success in the recent elections in the Ukraine. He admitted he is not happy his brother is in politics, because it is such a dirty business. “If I was not going to become a doctor, i was going to become a doctor,” he said, when asked what he'd be doing if not boxing. He then recommended everyone should follow their heart, and not waste your time in life doing things that don't fire you up.
A month ago, Wlad in a video for his YouTube channel, talked about the Wach fight. “Wach is a very special fighter,” citing the fact that Wach is taller, heavier and younger than him. The promoter is present in the Ukrainain, though I must say I don't think he'd do great selling used cars. (That is a compliment, btw.)
Wach's best attribute is…well, he can…that is to say..OK, Wach won't do squat Saturday. He is slow afoot, his hand speed is just acceptable, his balance and coordination is subpar. The long arms which eventually find the mark against Fields types won't get near Klitschko, a master at maintaining the distance he wants to work at. Wach can get some leverage and throw a right which can hurt C+ level guys–which is all he has faced to this point–but won't work against Wlad. I'm not trying to be a harsher here, I respect anyone and everyone who steps in and gives their best effort…but Wach's best effort, unless Wlad makes a serious mistake, won't get 'er done Saturday.
That said, one never knows, until one knows, so I will be tuning in on EPIX to verify my guesses.