Enigmatic Wach could test Klitschko in Saturday's title fight
HAMBURG, Germany -- Mariusz Wach's trainer, Juan De Leon, slipped on a pair of hand pads, and from his seat in the front row at Wednesday's open workout, Wladimir Klitschko let slip a smile. Not because he found Wach's training funny, of course. But because De Leon had taped pictures of Klitschko's face to the pads.
"Pretty funny stuff," Klitschko said.
In truth, Klitschko is taking Wach -- who Klitschko will defend his heavyweight titles against on Saturday at the O2 Arena (4:30 p.m. ET, Epix/EpixHD.com) -- very seriously. With a Jay Leno jaw and a 6-foot-7½ frame, Wach (27-0) is the first opponent the 6-6 Klitschko (58-3) will have to look up at as a professional. Though Wach has limited experience -- his resume is loaded with journeymen -- his power has progressed with every fight: His last six fights have ended in a knockout.
Little is known about Wach. In the early 1990s, Wach was a decorated amateur in Poland, winning gold medals in the Polish championships and representing his country as an alternate in the 2004 Olympics. Wach turned professional in 2005, fighting primarily out of Poland before moving his camp to the U.S. in 2011, where he has fought his last five fights.
Said Klitschko, "I see the spirit of a young man who wants to be champion."
De Leon sees more. Since taking charge of Wach's corner in 2011, De Leon has kept Wach busy while preparing him for a Klitschko-sized challenge, matching Wach against 6-6 Kevin McBride and 6-8 Tye Fields.
"Mariusz can fight, he can box, he can brawl, he doesn't care," De Leon said. "He is a smart fighter. If Wladimir wants to fight, we want to fight. If he wants to box, we can box. Wach is ready."
De Leon says that he targeted Wladimir, not his brother, WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko, for Wach's first title fight.
"I wanted Wlad first," De Leon said. "I wanted him because of his heart, because of his chin, because he is shorter. Vitali is a real fighter. He is tougher. But when the time comes we will catch him too."
Like many camp members of Klitschko's opponents, De Leon questioned Klitschko's level of competition.
"Wlad is in with the little guys or the old guys," De Leon said. "Mariusz is a smart fighter. He is taking this fight real seriously. Wlad, he has been doing the same things over and over. He is going to have to do something different to beat Mariusz. Mariusz is punching real fast. He is showing power. He is going to stop him."
For his part, Wach has spoken respectfully of Klitschko. On Wednesday, Wach called Klitschko "an elegant fighter" and said he has looked up to him throughout his career. But he made it clear there would be no hero worship on Saturday.
"On Saturday, you will see a different Mariusz Wach, a Mariusz Wach who will take the belts from Klitschko," said Wach. "You will remember that fight not just for the hours afterward, but for days and months to come."