By Keith Idec
Wladimir Klitschko’s choice to replace the late Emanuel Steward definitely was unconventional.
The dominant heavyweight champion picked an active heavyweight who could thrust himself into championship contention by beating Seth Mitchell on Nov. 17 in Atlantic City. But Klitschko knew the moment he found out Steward was terminally ill earlier this year that Johnathon Banks would be his head trainer if Steward was unable to continue in that role.
“I knew from the beginning that it was going to be Johnathon Banks,” Klitschko said as he promoted his fight Saturday in Hamburg, Germany, against Poland’s Mariusz Wach. “The man has learned a lot from Emanuel Steward. I met them both on the same day over nine years ago. Johnathon has been learning a lot from the Kronk [Gym] spirit.”
“Of course, Johnathon Banks is not Emanuel Steward; he is Johnathon Banks. Everyone has their own way of doing things and I think, considering everything, the camp well went.”
Banks and Klitschko concurred that this wasn’t a typical training camp, largely due to the emotional toll Steward’s death two weeks ago took on both men. The 6-foot-7½, 250-pound Wach (27-0, 15 KOs) is widely viewed as an overmatched optional opponent, though, one who has little business being in the ring with the 6-6, 250-pound Klitschko, despite his unblemished record and size.
Ukraine’s Klitschko (58-3, 50 KOs) has tried to train as though Wach is a legitimate threat in a scheduled 12-round fight that EPIX will televise live at 5 p.m. EST.
“Camp has been going really good,” Banks said. “We had a few setbacks, or maybe disappointment by losing one of the greatest trainers of all time, in my mind, in Emanuel Steward. Outside of that, camp is good. Everyone’s spirits are high and, as always, we look forward to a beautiful fight.”
After the Klitschko-Wach fight, the Detroit-bred Banks (28-1-1, 20 KOs) will leave for Atlantic City, where he’ll meet Mitchell (25-0-1, 19 KOs) in a 10-round heavyweight fight at Boardwalk Hall that’ll be broadcast by HBO.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.