World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and new trainer Johnathon Bank took part in the final media conference call before Klitschko defends his WBA/IBF/WBO and IBO heavyweight titles against Mariusz Wach at the O2 Arena in Hamburg, Germany on Saturday night.
Below is what Klitschko and Banks had to say on Wednesday.
JOHNATHON BANKS: Camp has been going really good. We had a few setbacks or maybe a 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.
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO: Good afternoon everybody in the States. Wladimir Klitschko speaking. I would also like to share my feeling about Emanuel Steward. He was a great-great friend and one of the geniuses in boxing. He is not here, but we know his spirit is with us and around us. He is laughing and enjoying himself and also looking forward to that fight – I know that for sure. On the other hand, I would like to congratulate all of the Obama supporters and congratulate President Obama for winning the election. I understand politically people can be divided but it is what it is in politics. It has been on TV all day in Germany – all of the people have been following and the outcome everyone knows,
Of course, regarding the fight – I have been going through the camp which has been a little bit different by losing Emanuel. On the other hand he is with us in spirit. I also want to mention something about Johnathon Banks. Of course everyone has been wondering who is going to be my next coach. I knew from the beginning that it was going to be Johnathon Banks. 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 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 went well. I had some good sparring partners … Dante Wilder was one of the greatest sparring partners I have ever had. He gave me a lot of speed and is a really talented guy. We enjoyed those sparring sessions that we had. I am also looking forward to this challenge in the ring. My opponent is undefeated, younger, heavier, taller, and has a longer reach, and everything like that. We had today an open workout with Maruisz Wach and his coach making a little fun by putting my face on the pads and hitting my face many times. It was something that was entertaining to watch. However, in the ring on Saturday, November 10, he will face the real Wladimir Klitschko, not just images on the pads. 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. 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.
What was it about Emanuel that when you met him nine years ago you decided to put your career in his hands?
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO: I had been working with a lot of guys and coaches in the States -- well known and experienced coaches. My advisor Bernd Boente called Emanuel Steward and asked him if he could imagine working with me. Do you really want to try and work out with me because I do. You know how he is, ‘yea, yea, yea, let’s try it out and see how we do.’ I was in Marina Del Ray. So we had this first pads work and conversations and all that and it clicked. It clicked from the beginning. 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. Our first work was not successful – it was the first time I fought Lamon Brewster in 2004 - a fight that I lost. After which we both broke down in tears (laughs) because we couldn’t believe what happened to us. Emanuel Steward has been known for his strength to pick up the fighter when he is not on the top – when he is on the bottom. That was the situation when Emanuel started to work with Lennox Lewis. He was not in Lennox’s corner when he fought Oliver McCall then he started to work with Lennox. It was something that I believed in the coach and he believed in the boxer, in this case with me and in that case with Lennox and that made Emanuel a very special man. I have mentioned it before- Emanuel Steward is a genius in the ring and it is something and it makes me feel privileged to have worked with him for many years and be a friend with such a legend and a genius that we have in boxing.
Is there anything tactical you can say that he made you better from 2004 to today?
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO: It is very complicated to explain everything. It is a lot and it would be impossible to mention it all on this conference call. But I’ll tell you one thing, maybe what he has changed in me? What’s amazing – Emanuel Steward hasn’t changed anything in me. He said “Wladimir, be yourself.” The thing I learned in the amateurs is about technique and balance, strategy that he has been improving on that. We basically write a script in the preparation and the script was played out in the fight exactly the way we wrote it. We were analyzing everything – the way the opponent talks, the way the opponent walks, what he has done before, what was the most common thing he repeated on the strong side of the opponent and on the weak side of the opponent. And we used it. That is what in general I am telling you.
We talked a lot. We actually talked more than we did pads work -- making combinations or anything like that. We talked about boxing and we talked about life because life is like boxing. There are certain things that are comparable and one of them is life and the sport of boxing.
How do you train for a fight next week and train a fighter for the heavyweight world championship?
JOHNATHON BANKS: Amazing is what it is. It is an amazing situation on both sides. I don’t feel any added weight. It is the situation at hand. I am in boxing. I love boxing. I love what I do. As far as me training then turning around and training Wladimir – there is no pressure, because boxing is what I’m into. It’s not like I’m training a guy for a golf tournament and I’ve got a fight coming up. I am with a fighter that has a fight and I have a fight coming up so it is definitely not a problem.
How were you able to get Wladimir’s respect and what was the process like?
JOHNATHON BANKS: In the words of Wladimir, I was just being myself. I approached him with a great deal of respect and I will always have that great deal of respect for him. I feel that through the wonderful sport of boxing I earned his respect. Then I earned it more once I got to be around him.
What is your brother’s political situation in politics and are you involved at all?
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO: Of course, Ukraine had Parliamentary elections and he is going to represent his party and also his people that were elected and voted for in Vitali’s party. Vitali has always been interested in politics and his goal is to change the way of Ukrainian politics. I can’t really be proud of Ukranian politics. Vitali has been living in different counties, United States, Germany and he sees Democracy. He knows that we have corruption in Ukraine and that is the main point -- where to fight corruption. There are no rules like in boxing. I was a part of his campaign from the beginning of August until October and I’m not into politics and I’m not in his party but I am politically aware and politically active but not a politician. I also represent the majority of the country that are not politicians. I shared my experience that I have had with the people that were watching the elections and was motivating them to go vote. Because a lot of people just lost any hope that they could change anything in the country because corruption in the No. 1 disease in the Ukraine. It is like a cancer taking over the whole body, and we have to fight. The fight is not easy. There were fights for the votes and it is still going on actually. I am happy for my brother and proud of my brother that he was elected and is going to protect the interests of the people.
When was the last time you spoke to Emanuel and what did you talk about?
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO: The last time I spoke to Emanuel was 2½ weeks ago and the only line that I got to hear from him was “Hello, hello, how ya’ doing?” Unfortunately that was the last words that I heard from Emanuel. His voice was very strong and his wife Marie held the phone. He wasn’t able to speak too much but that was the last line I heard from Emanuel – a strong, happy and clear sounding voice.
It was very sad and it is still sad. I am probably going to go over after the fight and of course there is going to be a memorial on the 13th of November. 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. We are doing a job we love doing and we are very excited about it. I see excitement in everyone on my team and in the man that replace Emanuel Steward – Johnathon Banks.
What kind of impact has Emanuel had on you as a human being?
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO: I have spent more time with Emanuel in the last nine years than I have with my own father. My father shaped me as a person and Emanuel did a lot for me inside the ring. What shaping Emanuel did for me outside the ring was he was always flexible and trying to figure out how people acted. He was not a conservative person. In is 68 years he has been around young people all of the time. His spirit was young and he was always learning and he never stopped. He said one line that ‘You know Wladimir, fighters are smarter than trainers.’ Trainers are not able to listen to their fighters but they have to actually listen to them. He’s right about it. You have to be flexible. As a trainer you tell a boxer ‘this is the way you do it and you do it.’ I would express my point of view and he would express his point of view and we try to work it out to get to one solution. He was incredibly flexible in his way of understanding things. And in life you have to be flexible also. Every person has certain qualities: see it, use it and don’t kill it. That is a description of Emanuel – exactly what he was.
Do you think you can help with the future of Kronk Gym?
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO: I saw a picture of the Kronk Gym, which has been destroyed. It made me really sad to see what happened. Kronk Gym has existed for a long time and it will continue to exist. I will do my dedication to that. Fortunately there are a lot of people in Detroit, boxers as well and boxers who have worked with Emanuel. Speaking for all of us that have worked with Emanuel and I am taking this responsibility to speak for all of us will unite to proceed with the existence of the Kronk Gym an existence of strategy of the spirit of Emanuel through the Kronk Gym. It has been taking care of a lot of young people and keeping them away from drugs and crime or anything else. Whoever will run it after Emanuel that is something we will think about after the November 10th fight. Of course I am dedicated and I will make sure all of the fighters that have worked with Emanuel are on the same page as me.
JOHNATHON BANKS: My feeling about the Kronk Gym – the name alone is my upbringing as far back as being an amateur fighter. Seeing the gym now is really hard to look at. Seeing pictures of the outside and the inside is really hard. As Wladimir said, all the fighters that have trained under Emanuel definitely want to keep that legacy going.
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO: I will be at the memorial service on November 13. I am pretty sure that Vitali is going to come to the memorial service.
I want to say thank you very much for all the questions and the participants on today’s conference call. I want to thank you, EPIX, for broadcasting the fight in the United States. I know the Klitscko brothers have a lot of fans in the United States. I am looking forward to getting back in the States, not just as a person, but as a person to perform, as well. Everybody watch the fight on EPIX because I am very excited about the fight and I think you guys are going to be too.
JOHNATHON BANKS: Like Wladimir said, it’s going to be a very good fight. Both big guys are motivated for the fight. It’s going to be very exciting fight. As far as my fight, tune in on November 17 on HBO because that is also going to be a very exciting fight.
November 7, 2012