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Boxing: Wladimir Klitschko v Mariusz Wach

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Boxing: Wladimir Klitschko v Mariusz Wach
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Saturday November 10
O2 World Arena, Hamburg
ESPN 10pm

Just weeks after his trainer of almost a decade, the legendary Emanuel Steward, passed away, Wladimir Klitschko (58-3, 50 KOs) is putting his world heavyweight titles on the line against Polish-born giant Mariusz Wach (27-0, 15 KOs).

After 16 fights unbeaten with Steward in his corner, Klitschko was understandably rocked by the sad news. “I will miss our time together,” he said. “The long talks about boxing, the world and life itself. Most of all, I will miss our friendship.”

Fulfilling Steward’s role at ringside on Saturday will be 30-year-old American heavyweight Johnathon Banks, who’s more used to trading blows with the world champ than directing them. One of Klitschko’s sparring partners, Banks is preparing for his own fight on November 17 against Seth Mitchell in Atlantic City. He is, however, well versed in Steward’s ways, having come up through the ranks at the trainer’s own Kronk Gym in Detroit.

It’s Klitschko’s first return to Hamburg since he dethroned David Haye there in 2011, but in Wach he faces an entirely different physical prospect. “He is extremely dangerous because his size and his range is greater than mine,” said Klitschko of his 6ft 7½ins challenger.

Of Wach’s 15 knockouts, seven have come in his past seven fights, backing up the view that the big man has finally learned how to make his size count. One of those was against Ireland’s Kevin McBride last summer, in what was arguably Wach’s first real test – and one he passed with flying colours. He knocked McBride out cold in the fourth round with a straight right.

If Klitschko is mentally right, his experience should be enough to see him through. If he’s not, Wach might just be big enough to take advantage.