As he pursues his 15th straight win and his 11th knockout during that run against Jean Marc Mormeck on Saturday, it’s easy to forget that THE RING heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko’s relationship with trainer Manny Steward began with a knockout — for the other guy.
Steward debuted with the giant Ukrainian a little less than eight years ago in April of 2004, when Klitschko was stopped in the fifth-round by Lamon Brewster of Los Angeles.
“Considering how we had to pick things up from his having been knocked out, Wladimir’s development has been phenomenal,” said Steward, also the former trainer of hall of famers Thomas Hearns and Lennox Lewis.
“I would say that my work with him is very rewarding, and that it ranks pretty highly with some of the best experiences that I’ve had as a trainer.”
The nearly 6-foot-7 boxer-puncher will defend his WBA, IBF and WBO belts against former cruiserweight champ Jean Marc Mormeck (36-4, 22 KOs) on EPIX from the ESPRIT arena, Düsseldorf, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. Klitschko (56-3, 49 KOs) is hoping to add the Frenchman to a long line of fallen foes.
Klitschko stopped ex-titleholder Brewster in the seventh round of their rematch in July of 2007, and has also knocked out former American beltholders Chris Byrd, Hasim Rahman, as well as other U.S. fighters such as Calvin Brock, Ray Austin, Tony Thompson and Eddie Chambers.
Yet another American, DaVarryl Williamson, lost by five-round technical decision to Klitschko, who also boasts career-defining wins over Samuel Peter by unanimous decision in September of 2005 and 10th-round knockout of the Nigerian in 2010.
In his last fight, in July of last year, Klitschko won the WBA belt from England’s David Haye by unanimous decision, ending Haye’s winning streak of 15 straight fights, including 13 stoppages.
RingTV.com: As dominant as you have been, do you still respect the potential for a loss due to your experience against Brewster in 2004 even though you are a prohibitive favorite to beat Mormeck?
Wladimir Klitschko: That’s right. People probably forget about 2004, when I went to the bottom of the sport after losing to Lamont Brewster. That’s actually the fight where Emanuel and I started to work together.
I think that I have a lot of respect for Emanuel that he saw that I was only 29 years old, and he still saw the fire in the young man that I was. He saw the fire and the talent and he stuck with me.
I believed in myself and Emanuel believed in me, and we worked our way up and back on top. We’re not on the top right now, but we’re continuing to improve the technique, and the talent that I have.
It’s enjoyable, because our relationship is very special. Of course it’s not the regular relationship between a boxer and a trainer. I do respect his experience in and outside of the ring, and he respects my experience inside the ring.
It’s very artistic work, because he’s not always telling me what to do, like, usually, a coach tells a boxer to do this or to do that. It’s creative. So I’m listening, and I’m learning from his comments. He’s also listening to my comments.
RTV: You said that Manny believed in you, but what made you believe in him?
WK: I can’t really tell you. We just meshed. I would compare it to the relationship between a man and a woman. It’s like you met your wife, and you knew exactly: That’s her.
I saw Emanuel, we started to work out on the pads, and talked a little bit about strategy, and he knew exactly what to say and do. We just clicked. I knew that’s what I needed. That was my understanding and my feeling.