Wladimir Klitschko dominated Alexander Povetkin to retain his WBA, IBF, WBO and RING magazine belts last Saturday, dropping the previously unbeaten Povetkin in the second round and three times in the seventh. The result was the widest ever points win in a 12-round heavyweight championship fight, with scores of 119-104 on all three judges‘ cards.
Yet the victory was met largely with derision, as many who witnessed the contest felt it was more of a love-in than a prizefight because of all the clinches.
Klitschko’s head trainer, Johnathon Banks, understands the criticism and responded by saying, “Povetkin is a very strong champion, with a heart the size of building. He’s a tough kid. He didn’t want to give up, he kept going and going and desperately wanted to win that fight. I think people saw how easily Wladimir moved around the ring and jabbed and they thought he should have ended it a bit quicker and finished things in better fashion. I understand the criticism, of course I do.”
However, overall Banks liked what he saw from his charge. “I think Wladimir did a pretty good job with Povetkin. I told him in the fight I believed he could knock this kid out and I believe he could have, but there was a lot of clinching. The thing about it is, I can’t blame one over the other because it’s the type of styles and styles make fights. When you’ve got a little guy who wants to come in and fight on the inside or you got a big guy who wants to fight on the outside – Wladimir actually started fighting on the inside, too. Once that started happening the little guy can‘t help getting shut down. What does the little guy expect the big guy to do?”
The Detroit native, who took over training duties with Klitschko after Emmanuel Steward’s passing last year, believes Povetkin’s team told him to try to get inside “Dr. Steelhammer’s” significant reach advantage.
“Povetkin had a good plan,” said Banks. “His trainer told him, ‘move that head, you need to get inside‘ but they never told him what to do when he got inside. They never anticipated this big man putting his weight on him to stop the little man getting inside.”
The trainer actually doesn’t believe Klitschko got the credit he deserved. “I think a lot of people discredit Wladimir, but I don’t, because if you have something to use to your advantage, then use it,” Banks reasoned. “If the little guy is faster than the big guy, the little guy‘s going to try to use his speed to his advantage. Whatever you got to do to your advantage that’s legal, you do. And I thought Wladimir used his size to his advantage.”
Winning isn’t always enough, though. Some fighters are held to higher standards, and Klitschko is one of those as the heavyweight champion of the world. “You’ve got certain fighters – Floyd Mayweather – winning is not enough for him,” said Banks. “He has to show he’s dominant. He has to show he’s better because if Floyd wins a majority decision and the guy takes it to him the whole fight and Floyd wins by one or two points, what do you think people will say? Wladimir Klitschko has the skills to impress his audience and that’s the reason for Wladimir winning is not enough. He must impress people.”
Some of those people believed that Klitschko should have pushed his advantage more and gone for the stoppage. Banks was apparently among them.
“Wladimir hurt Povetkin,” said Banks. “I thought he should have stepped on the gas when he hurt him with the hook in the second round. That was a clear knockdown … he should have stepped on the gas in round three.”
So is Wladimir a little conservative in his approach to going for the knockout until it’s absolutely there for the taking, due to previous endeavours? “I don’t think so,” said Banks. “Wladimir is just one of those guys who‘s a technical boxer. He wants to knock the guy out but he wants to do it in a certain way. He doesn’t want to get sloppy because in boxing if you get sloppy you get caught. He realizes than and he doesn’t want to get caught with something stupid. I don’t think his past has anything to do with it. I just wanted him to stay on top of the guy the whole time, don’t give him chance to breathe and get him out.”
In actuality Banks believes that, at 37, the younger Klitschko is improving: “People didn’t see him throw body shots until he fought Mariusz Wach. They didn’t see him throw two body shots in a row until he fought (Francesco) Pianeta. He threw a right uppercut – they don’t see a lot of shots he’s throwing. I’m pulling the best I can out of him. I think there’s more to come. Wladimir’s only getting better. If the fans continue to give him the opportunity to impress them, I really believe no matter who he fights next they will be impressed. I’m going to work on a lot of things to bring out his talent.”
Banks said he hasn’t spoken with Wladimir yet but that he would do so in the next week or so, and from there discussions would take place on where, when and against whom he would next fight.
While the Brothers K have largely sifted their way through the heavyweight division, there are a few adversaries including reigning European champ Dereck Chisora, IBF No. 1 contender Kubrat Pulev, etc. who are on the horizon.
An unimpressed Banks said of the possible future opponents, “Chisora really disappointed me. I think Chisora is a really good fighter, I really do. His outside the ring tactics – approaching a guy outside the ring for a fist fight … that really disappointed me, ‘cause Chisora could be at the top of the food chain but it’s his outside the ring antics nobody really wants to deal with. You don’t know if you’re coming to a press conference or a street fight.”
Banks continued, “I saw him at the weigh-in for Wladimir’s fight. He saw me and he smiled and I thought everything was cool, and he started shooting his mouth off. I understand he wants to sell the fight but dude, come on.
“I think the only way Chisora gets the fight is if he’s a mandatory. He doesn’t bring value. I don’t care what you say about David Haye, but he brings value and right now Wladimir’s at a stage where he’s trying to complete his legacy, and if you don’t bring no value to the ring why are we going to fight him? It makes no sense. Pulev, he brings value, he’s the IBF mandatory.”
Banks also confirmed that he still intends to continue his own career in the ring, and now that he’s back home in Detroit he’s receiving therapy on his hands, which he fractured in his last outing.
Photos by Alexander Nemenov-AFP/Gettyimages (1,2); Epsilon-Gettyimages (3)