AHEAD of what most boxing experts see as a routine title defence for unified heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko against Alex Leapai on April 27th in Oberhausen, Klitschko’s head trainer Johnathon Banks has reiterated this as he speaks confidently about his fighter’s preparation.
“We’re looking good and it’s difficult for him to look bad, the guys a workhorse,” said Banks. “He’s always putting in the work and he’s ready to go, all the time.”
Banks has trained Klitschko exclusively since the passing of the late and great famed trainer Emmanuel Steward in 2012 and has gone 3-0, including impressive wins over the previously unbeaten trio of Marius Wach, Francesco Pianeta and Alexander Povetkin respectively.
Like many other legendary Detroit names, Banks, 31, who holds a respectable professional resume as an active heavyweight contender (29-2-1, 19 KOs), has fought entirely under the historic Kronk gym banner and has picked up where Steward left off in terms of Klitschko’s training regime.
“It’s a twist of both, because this is who I learn from and who I grew up around,” said Banks when referring to the late Steward and his training methods. “I have no choice but to take some stuff from him, but at the same time I’m not him – so I’ve got to put my own spin on it – but I learnt from him. Ninety five percent of the things I do, I learnt from him.”
“As Wladimir’s coach, I’ve been putting together different strategies for this fight,” explained Banks.
Given the stretch of Klitschko’s lengthy reign, it’s expected that as the champion, Klitschko will have trained for all types of fighting styles. But in this particular case, Banks speaks confidently about their chances, given the similarity in style between the clubbing offence of Leapai and the two men who faced Klitschko before him.
“It just so happens, we’ve had two opponents and now this a third opponent we’ve had with the exact same style. So it’s not that difficult to come up with a strategy when we’ve had two previous guys, being Pianeta and Povetkin with the exact same style.”
In some quarters, Leapai is considered to be somewhat of a wildcard. Taking his impressive performance against previously top-rated heavyweight Dennis Boytsov in account, despite working a full-time job, it’s hard to determine what tools Leapai will bring to the ring with a proper training camp as a full-time fighter – the first of his professional career.
“I mean, you take something from every fight you watch, but if there’s no point watching the Kevin Johnson fight (which Leapai lost) – because he fights nothing like Wladimir.” Banks continued. “Leapai is going to be in a totally different world when he steps into that ring, because he’s never faced a guy of this magnitude, of this speed, of this much power and of this much will to win.”
“Wladimir has faced plenty of guys like this, guys who are looking for a shot, guys who want to knock him out to make a name for himself, guys who want to be a champion. Wladimir has faced guys like this, night in and night out.”
“We respect the opponent, I mean, we’d never underestimate the opponent – but that’s the reason we put in the work.”