And when Klitschko (56-3, 49 knockouts) defends his IBF, WBA and WBO belts against the Frenchman on EPIX from the ESPRIT arena in Düsseldorf, Germany, virtually everyone in the boxing world expects him to come away with his 15th straight win and his 11th knockout during that run.
But Klitschko insists that victory won’t necessarily come as easily as most think, even though he fully expects to be standing over Mormeck (36-4, 22 KOs) before the 12th and final round.
“It’s not really always an advantage, the difference in size, because the shorter guy is always trying to get to the closer distance and to be effective right there, and the taller guy has to keep the distance. I will promise you one thing, that Jean-Marc Mormeck will try anything and everything to win this fight,” said Klitschko.
“He will go and move forward and he’s going to be very aggressive and he’s a natural athlete and he’s in perfect condition and in great fighting shape. I think that he is going to shoot from all different angles. Of course if I see an opening, I’m going to use it right away. I’m not going to wait too long.”
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.
Mormeck has won three straight heavyweight bouts since being dethroned as WBA and WBC cruiserweight beltholder in November of 2007 by Haye, against whom he managed to score a knockdown.
But he’s a small heavyweight at around 215 pounds, while the 35-year-old Klitschko stands nearly 6-foot-7 and fights at around 245.
However, Klitschko’s trainer, Manny Steward, points to upsets by Hasim Rahman over Lennox Lewis, and Klitschko’s knockout losses to Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster in 2003 and 2004, respectively, as reasons not to be overconfident.
“The danger is in under-estimating our opponent. That’s the danger when you fight any heavyweight. Skill-wise, no, he’s not that big of a threat,” said Steward.
“I think that Wladimir has every advantage, but that it’s going to have to be a systematic breakdown. Wladimir is a technical fighter, and I think that if he gets an opportunity, then he will knock him out.”
KLITSCHKO TOUTS SETH MITCHELL, CHRIS ARREOLA
“The issue with the heavyweight division, especially in the states, it’s kind of bad. That’s the opinion that a lot of people have,” said Klitschko. “There’s been not many great challengers as loud as David Haye, for example. But that’s why I’m kind of stuck in Europe with my fights.”
Along with contender Chris Arreola (35-2, 30 KOs), a winner of eight straight, Klitschko said he considers a hot American prospect to be Seth Mitchell (24-0-1, 18 KOs), who will face Chazz Witherspoon (30-2, 22 KOs) on the undercard of the rematch between RING light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson on April 28 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Steward agrees. “Seth Mitchell, he looks good. He’s solid. He’s fundamentally a good fighter. I like him,” he said. “He does what I like to see heavyweights do. He comes in and he throws punches. He’d be a good challenge. It’s too bad we don’t have a bunch of guys like him.”
Mitchell (24-0-1, 18 knockouts), of Brandywine, Md., is coming off December’s HBO-televised second-round knockout of Timur Ibragimov (30-4, 1, 22 KOs) that earned him his 22nd consecutive victory and his 17th knockout during that run at The Washington Convention Center.
“In the future, you have a good, young, up and coming heavyweight in Seth Mitchell, that is coming actually from American football,” said Klitschko, referring to the fact that Mitchell is a former high school linebacker standout who later starred at Michigan. “He just knocked out an opponent very impressively in Ibragimov.”
Arreola scored his seventh consecutive win and his fifth knockout during that run in the first round against Eric Molina on Feb. 18.
“There’s also Chris Arreola that tremendously knocked out another guy who is as tall as I am with pretty much the same technique,” said Klitschko. “He just rolled over him. I think that those heavyweights are coming up.”
KLITCHKO LONGS TO RETURN TO THE UNITED STATES
Klitschko has not fought on American soil since February of 2008, when he decisioned Sultan Ibragimov at Madison Square Garden.
His manager, Bernd Boente, was approached by the Barclays Center, a state-of-the-art arena that is under construction in Brooklyn, N.Y. about hosting an Oct. 20 clash between Wladimir Klitschko and Arreola.
But the Barclays Center has since signed an exclusive promotional deal with Golden Boy Promotions, and Boente refused to co-promote with their organization.
“Apparently Barclay’s has an exclusive arrangement with Golden Boy, and it makes no sense in co-promoting any Klitschko fight with another promoter,” said Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions, which handles Wladimir and his brother, WBC beltholder Vitali Klitschko. “I mean, we wouldn’t ask Golden Boy to co-promote an Oscar De La Hoya fight, for example. It’s nothing against them, it’s just that we wouldn’t co-promote. At the level where Vitali and Wladimir are at right now, at the top of the sport, and at the top of the heavyweight division, it makes no sense in co-promoting with any promoter.”
“They have all of the titles now amongst themselves. They have a big history here in Europe, consistently — I think that this is Wladimir’s fifth stadium show, and we’ve sold over 40,000 seats. We’ve done three shows at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and we’ve done them in Madison Square Garden and at the Mandalay Bay, so it’s unfortunate. It seems like Barclay’s wanted to have the Klitschko fight there, but under their current agreement with Golden Boy, it doesn’t seem possible that we can do a Klitschko fight there.”
If and when he does return to America, said Wladimir Klitschko, New York “would be the logical step.”
“New York has been to me, so good, and that’s actually my favorite city in the states that I’ve lived in and spent time in and made friends (there). I think that even without an American on the other side as my opponent, that we can create interest in a fight and create a great crowd,” said Wladimir Klitschko.
“I hope that this year, I will fight back in the states again. I’ve been missing those exciting moments of my training in the Poconos and I’m definitely looking forward to fighting back in the states as well, and it doesn’t matter who I’m going to fight.”
JORGE LINARES RETURNS AGAINST SERGIO THOMPSON
Venezuelan-born Jorge Linares (31-2, 20 KOs) will attempt to rebound from October’s 11th-round loss to Antonio DeMarco in a failed attempt to win the WBC’s vacant lightweight belt when he meets Mexico’s hard-hittinng Sergio Thompson (21-2, 19 KOs) on March 31 at Oasis Hotel Complex in Cancun, Mexico.
Linares has won the WBC and WBA belts as a featherweight and junior lightweight, and Thompson has won seven straight fights, six of them by knockout. The event is being promoted by Golden Boy Promotions.
THE RING’s No. 1-rated lightweight, Brandon Rios (pictured right), is set to take on the magazine’s No. 1-rated featherweight, Yuriorkis Gamboa, April 14 on HBO at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, and their two-city press tour has been announced for next week.
It will begin on Monday at noon at the Versailles Restaurant in Miami, Fla., and conclude with another noon conference on Tuesday in Los Angeles at Millenium Biltmore Hotel’s Crytal Ballroom.
Rios (29-0-1, 22 KOs) will meet Gamboa (21-0, 16 KOs) for the vacant WBA 135-pound belt.
On the undercard, junior welterweight Mike Alvarado (32-0, 23 KOs), of Denver, will meet Mauricio Herrera (18-1, 7 KOs) of Lake Elsinore, Calfi.
Photo credits: Dmitriy Abramov, KMG; Naoki Fukuda; Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org