The sad passing of legendary trainer Emanuel Steward will be felt throughout boxing. Steward played a part in the guidance and training of many boxers, and a large number of former champions including retired heavyweight boxer Lennox Lewis, and more recently, current title chaser Miguel Cotto.
One of Steward's notable students of late is reigning WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, IBO and The Ring heavyweight champion, Wladimir Klitschko, which got me thinking. Will Manny's passing expose some of the old cracks that he spent the last eight years filling in?
Klitschko enlisted Steward's services in 2003 as he looked to rebuild his career after losing his WBO heavyweight title when the late Corrie Sanders stopped him out in the second round of their 2003 fight, dropping him four times in the process.
As can be the case with fighter and trainer, success didn't come immediately. Klitschko was stopped by Lamon Brewster in a 2004 world title challenge. That loss, though, was the last time Klitschko was defeated in the boxing ring. His decision to stick with Steward seemed to have paid off.
With three stoppages in his career, Klitschko has had his chin called into question ever since. In fact, his chin has also been labelled weak by former opponents including David Haye and Jean-Marc Mormeck in the build up to their 2011 and 2012 bouts with the champion.
In the end, Klitschko was standing tall and victorious over both opponents, and over everybody he has faced since the loss the Brewster.
Undoubtedly a talented boxer, is it talent alone or is it the guidance of the man who was able to teach Klitschko to utilize his strengths while masking his weaknesses that has allowed a man labelled as "chinny" to be so dominant?
Under Steward's tutelage, Klitschko has boxed masterfully behind his jab. He has learned to patiently break down his opponent while keeping himself out of trouble by making the most of the reach advantage he's had over so many.
Throughout Klitschko's partnership with Steward, he never once appeared unprepared coming into a fight, as he did when he lost his first fight to Ross Puritty back in 1998. The pair seemed to always have the perfect game plan in place for their opponent, and Klitschko appeared to have complete trust in how Steward has tutored him for the man staring him down across the ring.
Klitschko is scheduled to face the unheralded, but also undefeated, Mariusz Wach in a few weeks time on Nov. 10. The fight will pit Klitschko against a taller opponent and will give us a glimpse into how Klitschko will box without Steward in his corner.
Will Klitschko stick to the methods for both training and boxing that Steward spent years instilling in him, or will he decide his talent alone allowed him such domination?
Will the past taunts of the weak chin on Klitschko's face ring true without the man who has taught him to protect it all these years with in and out movement, a stiff jab and high hands?
Steward's loss will leave a hole in boxing, but could the biggest hole of all be showing on his biggest client?
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