At 40 years of age, Mariusz Wach (35-6, 6 KOs) remains ambitious. He wants to participate in big fights and not just to make up the numbers.
The same cannot be said of his opponent, Kevin Johnson. Since his unsuccessful WBC title tilt against Vitali Klitschko in 2009, ‘Kingpin’ has embraced his role as a journeyman. Rarely does the American get stopped, even more infrequently does he pose a threat to his rival.
Under normal circumstances, tonight’s 10-round contest would invariably result in three scorecards of 100-90 in favour of the Pole, however nothing about the bout is routine.
Both boxers have had their preparations curtailed by control measures designed to slow the spread of Covid-19. The event will mark a return for European boxing after the intervention of the Coronavirus.
Yesterday’s weigh-in was carried out with all 12 fighters participating on the card wearing protective face masks, and each had undertaken health screening beforehand.
The card itself will take place at the Palac w Konarach hotel in Konary, Poland, without fans in attendance.
Despite the restrictions in place, Wach believes he could make a statement by halting Johnson (34-16-1, 18 KOs).
“I am very well prepared,” Wach told Boxing Social, with former WBC super-welterweight champion Ewa Piatkowska translating. “I am prepared for a strong 10 rounds because I did a lot of 10 round sparring. I know Kevin Johnson has a good defence. It is not very easy to knock him out, but we’ll see how he was able to prepare for this fight because it has been difficult for all of us. We’ll see what shape he’s in. If there is an opportunity to knock him out, I will do so.
“There was a difficulty with gyms at the beginning because the gyms were closed, we had to find gyms that were open. All these safety things are difficult in boxing because we have to touch each other and be close to each other. We had to avoid other boxers in the gym in the beginning, but now it is a little bit better.”
The inability to train as normal appeared to have hindered both men somewhat when they took to the scales on Thursday. Johnson came in seven pounds heavier than he did for his last bout, when he was stopped inside five rounds by Martin Bakole.
Wach, too, weighed over four pounds more than he did when he faced Dillian Whyte on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr. in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, last December.
Both men took the fight at short notice, which was evident as they produced a somewhat sloppy but enjoyable bout. Despite losing a unanimous decision, Wach believes he gave a good account of himself.
“It was a very nice experience,” he said of his time in Saudi Arabia. “All the fighters were welcomed there; it was a very nice reception. I did my plan. I did 100 per cent what I wanted. Whyte is a good opponent, he’s high in [the] rankings and he’s not really easy to box, but I think I put up a very good fight for everyone there and watching on TV.”
Despite being a 50-1 on favourite with the bookmakers, the 6’7” heavyweight is under pressure to perform.
Wach had agreed to face former European champion Agit Kabayel on March 28, prior to lockdown.
‘The Viking’ hopes to face the undefeated German later this year, but knows he cannot afford to slip up against Johnson.
“It is the third time they are trying to arrange this fight, so I am anxious to meet Kabayel,” he said. “After beating Johnson, I’ll be able to fight Kabayel, maybe in [the] autumn.”
Regardless of tonight’s result, Wach believes he still has much to offer the sport. In the twilight of his career, Wach is now looking towards his legacy in boxing.
“I want to give a few great fights so people can remember me as a great boxer,” he said.