By Johnny Walker
Listening to world heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko on a conference call this week from Germany, it became clear that the normally genial and laid-back Ukrainian was a little more tense than usual as Saturday’s fight with Jean Marc Mormeck of France approaches.
Klitschko and his trainer Emanuel Steward have been reading the boxing press, and bristling at the suggestion, made by many (including this writer), that the cerebral and methodical champ needs to step up his game and get rid of the seemingly over-matched Mormeck both quickly and in spectacular fashion in order to satisfy his numerous (on this side of the pond, anyway) critics.
Steward was first up, trying to tamp down expectations of a blowout in front of an estimated 50,000 European boxing fans on Saturday in Düsseldorf, Germany.
“It’s not the type of a fight that he can come out like everyone thinks and just blow the guy away,” said Steward.
“It’s so frustrating with these comments that we’re reading. And I understand the fans’ opinion, but I just think style-wise, it’s not going to be the type of a fight where you can just knock the guy out early, because his head is going to be bobbing and weaving. So when you fight a guy like that you have to fight a very patient fight.
“You have to jab and learn to control the guy’s head, because his head is upfront, which means you control his head, you control his whole weight, and which means you have to fight a patient, systematic fight to break the guy down, much like Lennox [Lewis] had to do with Mike Tyson.
“But according to all of the experts, if the fight goes over three rounds or four rounds, it’s considered a terrible performance. If Wladimir knocks him out in a minute, it’s what he was supposed to do, so we’re going into a definitely no-win situation,” Steward lamented.
The champion then spoke, and both his tone and the cutting nature of some of his comments made it clear that he is tired of the idea that there is something wrong with the way he fights, and offended by the notion that he needs to do something differently this time.
“I think you’re more frustrated that anyone else,” Klitschko snarked at one reporter who suggested that the Klitschko brothers might find the current heavyweight division’s competition less than satisfactory.
“We’re getting enough challenges, trust me.”
Wladimir also emphasized the fact that while size is important, it isn’t the determining factor in most title fights.
“It’s a tough job to fight a shorter guy,” said Wladimir.
“And trust me, it costs you more energy as a bigger guy. It’s on one side an advantage because of the size and weight, but it’s not always an advantage.
“It’s definitely – it’s a smaller target to hit, so you have to be really precise. It has to be like surgery in an operating room, you know? You have to be really precise with what you’re doing, and that’s exactly what it’s going to be like with Mormeck.”
In other words, the champion has no intention of changing his approach for Jean Marc Mormeck or anybody else.
As always for Wladimir, it’s going to be chess match.
If it ain’t broke, he reasons, don’t fix it.
“If our fights were kind of sloppy and we were getting punched in the face and we needed to have a shoehorn to put the hat on after the fights, probably that would be exciting for the fans,” Klitschko said sarcastically of he and his brother Vitali’s heavyweight dominance.
“I know what to expect from my opponents. I know the game, and it’s actually a chess game for me, believe it or not. So when you’re well prepared, there is nothing that can surprise you.
“That’s basically it.”
(Weigh-in photo by Michael Sterlingeaton)