Wladimir Klitschko believes the spirit of Emanuel Steward is still with him as he prepares to defend his IBF, WBO, IBO and WBA super world heavyweight titles for the first time without the revered trainer in his corner on Saturday night.
Steward, who died last month aged 68, took Klitschko under his wing in 2004 and is widely believed to have been the driving force that has seen the Ukrainian become nigh-on unbeatable in the last eight years.
Since being knocked out by Lamon Brewster in his first outing with Steward, Klitschko was gone on to forge a worthy legacy, collecting several world titles along the way.
While he is not expected to be stretched by the unbeaten but untested Mariusz Wach in Hamburg, the passing of Steward has added some interest to what would have otherwise been a routine 13th world title defence.
"It was very sad and it is still sad," Klitschko said of his mentor's passing in a conference call.
"The relationship between Emanuel and me was very special - not just a regular relationship between a coach and a boxer, I assure you of that because he respected my experience inside and out of the ring.
"I respected his experience outside of the ring as a coach.
"I can tell you that the real spirit of Emanuel Steward is with us. I am very happy there is a fight so we can stay focused and continue to do what he was excited about."
Aspiring heavyweight contender Johnathon Banks will be the man to replace Steward in Klitschko's corner against Wach, who boasts a record of 27 professional wins from as many fights, with 15 knockouts.
While it is massive step up in class for the Pole, tomorrow marks the first time the 6' 6" Klitschko will be facing someone taller than him, with Wach having a one-and-a-half inch advantage.
"I think it is going to be a real exciting fight because Wach has the spirit of a young man that wants to become world champion," added Klitschko, who will be looking to improve his record of 58(50)-3.
"He is very self-confident and I am expecting him to be better than he usually can be because that is his motivation - his chance to be world champion and I am expecting a very good fight from Wach."Tags: Wladimir Klitschko , Mariusz Wach , Klitschko-Wach , Klitschko vs Wach