World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko on Monday dedicated his 22nd title fight this weekend against Poland’s Mariusz Wach to the memory of his late trainer, Manny Steward.
Having coached Klitschko for the last nine years, Steward passed away suddenly on Oct. 24 in his hometown of Detroit after suffering from cancer.
“I will be without Emanuel, but his presence will be with me when I step into the ring and I will defend the titles we have won together,” said Klitschko, who will be defending his IBF, WBO and WBA belts on Saturday.
“All that I have learned from him over the last nine years I will never forget,” he said. “I know what I have to do and I will do it for him.”
In the traditional stare-down during Monday’s press conference, Klitschko had to look up at his opponent for the first time in his career.
At 2.02m tall, Wach, 32, has a 4cm advantage over the 36-year-old champion and the Polish fighter has a reach of 2.08cm from the tips of his fingers across his shoulder blades.
He also comes with an impressive unbeaten record of 15 knock-outs in 27 wins, but his only significant victory is a fourth-round knock-out win last year against Kevin McBride, who beat an aging Mike Tyson back in 2005.
Klitschko will present a tough challenge.
“Welcome to big time boxing!” Klitschko boomed at his challenger having heard how Wach aimed to take his three belts back to Poland.
“He can hit pretty good, but it depends on how you use the size” added the champion, who will have sparring partner Johnathon Banks in his corner in place of Steward.
“If the opportunity arises, I will finish the fight early,” he said.
With 50 knock-outs and 58 victories in 61 professional fights, this will be Klitschko’s third defense since unifying all three belts by beating Britain’s David Haye in July last year, also in Hamburg.
Wach thanked the Ukrainian for giving him a shot at his titles.
“On Saturday you will see a different Mariusz Wach, a Mariusz Wach who will want to take those belts off Klitschko,” said the softly spoken challenger. “You will remember that fight not for hours later, but for days and months to come.”
“If I need 12 rounds then 12 rounds it is. I am prepared for everything,” he said.