Emanuel Steward Q&A about Wladimir Klitschko's Performance

emanuel steward28.02.08 - By Scoop Malinowski: Order has finally been restored to the heavyweight championship. After nearly a decade of unification avoiders, Wladimir Klitschko has stepped up and skillfully got the job done last Saturday night against the dangerous quick-fisted Sultan Ibragimov and we have a new unified IBF/WBO/IBO champ.

But many ring observers and media members were not pleased with the action of the fight, saying Klitschko was too careful and should have tried more for the knockout.

But these very critics would have likely lambasted an early KO win by Klitschko by saying the heavyweight division is terrible, or the heavyweight era is awful. It seems Klitschko can't win, even if he wins, that's how impossibly high the standard has been set for him. It's also unfair how fighters like Pernell Whitaker, Willie Pep or Floyd Mayweather are lauded after defensive masterpieces but Klitschko is practically condemned.

We spoke with Emanuel Steward, the trainer of newly unified IBF/WBO/IBO Heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko about his latest victory over Ibragimov:

Scoop: Emanuel I was talking with Phil Anselmo for about ninety minutes just on the Klitschko-Ibragimov fight and at the end of the discussion he asked a very interesting question: Is Wladimir so talented and so technically good that he is able to box so effectively without getting hit barely at all - or is a little bit afraid to engage?

Steward: "He's not afraid to engage. I know him enough for that. He can handle things so easily. This particular fight was like Lennox and Tua. People will forget about it after the next fight. He said that the guy was so bent down and so small that he just felt every time he threw his right hand he was gonna get all out of position. The guy wound up going underneath and then jump up and wrestle and then throw him down. Or try to counterpunch. So he said he didn't have a feeling of being comfortable to throw the right, And he said a couple of times my biggest mistake was after he would throw punches at me I'd move back and make him miss but I should have moved in. But once he got against the ropes, he'd have his head so far back bending all back that you'd punch you would get all off of balance. And he said he couldn't reach him. The shortness was an advantage really.

So he just had to beat him throwing the jab and occasional right hands. Just a bad mixture. I told him I remember a guy Jimmy Young fighting Ali. Poor fight. They booed Ali, all of us, including me. Because Jimmy Young always fought with his head always knowing where the exit signs were. Then when you least expect it, he would come in with a punch or two. People booed him. Then George Foreman fought him. George was more aggressive and he got beat by him. Because the guy is just a difficult guy to beat. So I say let's go sign with Povetkin or Sam Peter if he wins. And let's move on to that. And that's all the people would be interested in. You're not gonna ever be able to undo it. Let's just move on. But he's feeling real bad about it."

Scoop: It's almost like a sad thing. There's no big superfight at the end of the rainbow like a Mike Tyson. It's all these fights where if he wins by early KO they say the whole division just sucks, and if he doesn't get a KO he's too defensive. It's almost like he can't win.

Steward: "Big oversize guys usually fight cautious technical fights. That's throughout history. So being overaggressive and missing and being out of balance which happens a lot - all big guys fight that way. And then the next big concern is left-handed fighters are always technical fighters. Look at the history - Chris Byrd, Winky Wright. 90% of left-handed fighters are defensive fighters. Pacquiao is one of the few (exceptions). But as a general rule left-handed fighters being technical and safety. Oversize, tall fighters mostly are safety. They don't be too aggressive - Wladimir Klitschko, Lennox Lewis. The chemistry of the two styles - left-handed little guy who's a technical counterpuncher against a tall guy who doesn't like to get off balance too much."

Scoop: Vitali seemed to be one of those big guys who was a wrecking machine.

Steward: "Well, not all the time. Kirk Johnson was his best fight (KO 2). A lot of other fights he was moving around, stepping around. But he had guys that were coming to him too. But when you got those guys that bend back and lay back - these guys can feel that they're gonna get out of position trying to punch down and they all back up a little bit."

Scoop: I can't remember any body shots from Wladimir in the last two or three years. Does he work on that?

Steward: "I told him don't even worry about it too much. If you can just keep doing what you're doing. Ali was not a body puncher either. If you can work so effective it becomes such a great control of distance and space - which he's mastered. And then shoot your missiles whenever he gets a chance. You can knock out enough guys without having to be a body puncher. Some guys it's just not necessary. But he would have liked to have had a better performance. He said he saw many opportunities we had to do it but felt he was gonna get out of position so much because the guy's head would be bending and ducking and bent so far back that he said I should have just thrown them anyway. But I said, As long as you felt that way it's not all a loss. At least hopefully you'll learn from this. Then come back.

That's the first time I ever heard him booed, even in the match with Sam Peters was a lot of drama at the end, and then the comeback in round 12, having Sam Peters out on his feet. But Peters was coming to fight. But I was technical and the other guy was technical too, he was bending back Emanuel. It was just a bad match-up and I'm sorry I said okay."

Scoop: Still it was an excellent dominant performance, he was barely hit at all, he won easily. But the expectations are so high.

Steward: "You could see everybody was waiting for that big missile, that right hand to come out. When they see the guy with the jab so easily and consistently, here it comes, here it comes."

Scoop: There's really nothing you can do when the guy is so dead-set on survival, or dead-set on not getting knocked out with the right hand.

Steward: "Jack Hirsch said if it would have been a lightweight division, people would have applauded it as a masterpiece. The way he controlled it. But everybody with the heavyweights, especially with Wladimir - that big right hand of his, everybody was waiting for the big right hand to come out. When it didn't come out it's the difference. If they didn't have expectations for a big powerful punch to come, it wouldn't have been so bad."

Scoop: Who is there to challenge Wladimir? There isn't that other big marquee name out there, where everybody is anticipating some kind of showdown in the near future?

Steward: "I wish Sam Peter would have a very impressive knockout over Maskaev."

Scoop: He very well might lose though.

Steward: "Two years ago I would have said it would've been a mismatch. Now without having any fights - meaning Maskaev - his chances of winning went dead even. Mainly because of the three unimpressive performances of Peter (vs. Toney twice and McCline). And before they would have said it was definitely a big fight because he lost to Wladimir but great fight. He had him down three times. But since then where Wladimir is rolling, he went this way (down). And there's the problem."

Scoop's site is

Article posted on 29.02.2008

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