HAMBURG, Germany — Trainer Emanuel Steward was relaxed as he sank into a plush leather chair in the lobby of a five-star hotel here. It had nothing to do with the serene setting of the InterContinental, which overlooks the picturesque Alster Lake in one of Germany’s most-beautiful cities.
Rather, Steward, a natural worrier, is at peace because he is supremely confident about the prospects of his fighter – heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko — against David Haye on Saturday.
“Honestly,” he said in a soft voice, almost embarrassed at being so bold, “I don’t think it’ll go much past four rounds.”
Steward chatted for about an hour with RingTV.com, explaining why Klitschko will beat Haye at what is expected to be an Imtech Arena soccer stadium packed with about 50,000 fans of the Germany-based Ukrainian giant.
Klitschko has obvious advantages in size and experience – he has taken part in 18 world title fights, Haye five – that should play a role in their long-awating showdown.
However, Steward focused on three basic aspects of his fighter’s game he believes will make this a one-sided fight: Footwork he compared to that of Manny Pacquiao, the big man’s now-legendary left jab and a right he said rivals that of any fighter he’s ever worked with.
Steward said he can’t understand why observers don’t recognize Klitschko’s ability to move his feet effectively, which he explained is the most-important element to any boxer’s repertoire.
Klitschko, he said, defetly uses his feet to get into punching range – relentlessly cutting off the ring – but also uses them to step quickly backward when his opponent attacks and then, with his prey off balance, counter punch. Either way the opponent loses.
“Tommy Morrison beat George Foreman so easily because every time George came in, Tommy just moved to the side,” Steward said. “It was so simple. Tommy would just make George miss completely and then BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!. Michael Moorer and other opponents blocked George’s punches. If you make someone miss, they lose their balance. If you block punches, you let them keep their balance.
“The only fighters in boxing (today) that do this effectively off the top of my head are Manny Pacquiao and Wladimir. People don’t see Wladimir’s footwork. That amazes me.”
How is Haye’s footwork?
Steward got up from his chair and stood with his feet wide apart, catching the attention of curious hotel guests nearby who would receive their first lesson in proper balance. The trainer threw a right hand and then stumbled to make a point.
“Haye gets out of balance when he throws his right,” Steward said. “That’s why he never throws combinations, because he’s off balance all the time. He’s too far apart and flat footed. Wladimir is always on his toes.”
So how was an unbalanced Haye able to beat heavyweights such as Nikolai Valuev and John Ruiz?
“Because his opponents stand like that,” said Steward, standing upright with his hands covering his face. “He’s more explosive than those guys. He better be careful who he’s fighting this time, though. In his mind Wladimir is a stand-up, robotic guy. He doesn’t see the footwork, how he cuts off the ring, shortens the distance.
“If he is comparing Wladimir to Valuev and Ruiz, he’s going to have a problem.”
Klitschko’s jab is no secret. It is like a moving, rock-hard wall his opponents almost invariably can’t find a way around.
Steward said it isn’t thrown in the same way each time, though. Sometimes it is predictable, coming straight at you. Sometimes he throws it out of rhythm. And sometimes he’ll throw a half jab first – causing you to flinch – and then come at you with full force.
The idea is to keep the opponent guessing.
“I see people get frustrated with his jab,” Steward said. “They can’t figure it out. The opponent goes back to his corner and they say, ‘Why are you getting his with those jabs, man? We worked on that in camp.’ They all have problems with it.
“The strategy for this fight is real simple … create foot pressure, take his space away, like Wladimir did against Eddie Chambers. Cut him off, cut him off, cut him off. Create tension. Don’t give him time to relax. Shoot the jab, shoot the jab, shoot the jab and eventually you’ll get caught with a big shot.”
Klitschko — 6-foot-6½ (199cm) and about 245 pounds (111 kilos) – is a big, immensely strong man. His right biceps is the size of a basketball.
Thus, it’s no great surprise that Steward compares his punching power to that of giant-sized former protégé Lennox Lewis and most people believe he hits harder than Mike Tyson ever did.
The effectiveness of Klitschko’s right goes beyond strength, though. Speed (underrated) and positioning of his glove also play a role.
Steward said more than one opponent has told him after the fact that they were surprised at Klitschko’s hand speed, another example of his surprising athleticism given his size.
The right also reaches its target quickly because of where it starts. Steward put his right fist against his ear, a typical starting position for an orthodox boxer. Then he moved the fist to his chin, about six inches closer to the opponent.
That’s where Klitschko’s right starts, he said. Steward believes the six inches can decide a fight.
“I ran into Chris Byrd after Wladimir beat him the second time and he said, ‘My dad and everyone says he beat me because he is bigger than me. The first fight, maybe. The last fight he beat me because I couldn’t see his punches.’ Chris got knocked down the first time and asked his corner, ‘What knocked me down?’ They said a right hand. He never saw it. He keeps it in such a position and throws it so straight that you hardly see it.
“You get so busy watching for the jab and all of a sudden you’re on the floor. Wladimir pushes the button on the missle and it goes right to the target.”
That’s what Steward is convinced will happen against Haye on Saturday.
Klitschko will use his feet to move in and out of danger. He’ll batter the Briton with his confusing and relentless jab. And he’ll fire big rights that Haye will have trouble tracking, rights that will eventually spell the underdog’s doom.
It all seems so simple.
“It is,” Steward said. “That’s why I’m so comfortable, so relaxed about this fight.”