By Bob Ryder
Photos: Bob Ryder
NABO and WBC International heavyweight title holder Johnathon Banks made a hometown visit last week for a public sparring session and media Q&A held in a ring set up on the football field of Ecorse (MI) High School. Under sunny skies and warm weather, Banks drove into the school parking lot accompanied by a four car police escort along with a fire truck, all with lights flashing. After changing into his work out gear and speaking with assembled media, Banks entered the ring to the beat of the school’s drum line to engage in four rounds of sparring split between former contender Jameel McCline and Alex Zubov. The sparring was crisp and Banks took time to greet his fans and sign autographs after his ring work was finished.
Fightnews.com spoke with a confident and relaxed Banks about his upcoming June 22 rematch with Seth Mitchell.
First question Johnathon, how’s the thumb? (An injury to Banks’ thumb had caused a postponement of the original February date).
It’s good (holding hand up in front of this reporter’s face to demonstrate). Everything is fine. The injury was just a slight detour but it’s all good now.
Your training camp for this fight was in Traverse City (a resort area in northern Michigan). How did it go and why there?
It’s a real natural environment up there. A nice beautiful peaceful place where we could really concentrate on the task at hand. Also, we wanted to train there for a reason. Back in 1981, Emanuel Steward had Tommy Hearns train there for the Sugar Ray Leonard fight. We wanted to go back for Emanuel.
It’s unusual for a rematch to happen so soon after such a decisive result in the first match. What do you think drove Mitchell to want to get back into the ring with you so quickly?
He’s a motivated guy. He said he made mistakes the first time around and he wants to correct them. It’ sort of like football mentality. You know, you miss a tackle, get knocked down, you get up and try it again. I just think he doesn’t realize in this case that his opponent is better than him.
Are you expecting Mitchell to change his fight plan this time around?
Perhaps he may be less aggressive. He says he’s a better fighter now, that he made mistakes the first time and learned from them. We’ll see.
Have you and trainer Sugar Hill focused on anything specifically in your training?
Speed. Really worked hard on speed. I think you will notice it in the ring.
You are gaining a reputation as a top trainer yourself. Is it difficult at times moving between roles of trainer and fighter?
No, it’s all about boxing. I can do both. I know it’s a unique situation and I give all credit to Emanuel Steward. He imparted the confidence and knowledge to me to do this. It makes me better in both roles as I can see things from a unique perspective. It really allows me to study the science of boxing. I don’t think anyone has ever done both at this level at the same time. I train the heavyweight champion of the world and I’m one of the top 5 in the same division as a fighter. I’m not aware of anyone having done this. Being a fighter makes me a better trainer and it’s the same the other way.
You and Sugar Hill have a long standing and strong relationship. However, given your background as a trainer, do you ever question what he is asking you to do as a fighter?
We fighters are always second guessing our trainer. Fighters always think they know best. You have to trust your trainer though. As you listen and follow instructions and keep at it, it works!
Where do you place yourself in the heavyweight title picture?
Right now I’m number 3 in the WBC. I’m behind the brothers (Klitschko). I don’t know what is going to happen in the future. I need to stay focused and win this fight. If the title (WBC) becomes vacant for some reason then I’m in line to fight for the championship.
Any last words for your fans?
June 22nd is my birthday and I’m planning on celebrating. Everybody tune in and don’t blink. For this rematch it’s just a different network, different date, same result!
* * *
Malignaggi vs. Broner, a 12-round fight for Malignaggi’s WBA Welterweight World Championship, will take place Saturday, June 22, 2013 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The event is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and R & R Promotions, supported by Golden Boy Promotions’ sponsors Corona and AT&T and will be televised live on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT. In the co-featured bouts, Johnathon Banks will look to repeat his 2012 upset win over Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell as he defends his NABO and WBC International Heavyweight titles in a 12-round fight presented in association with K2 Promotions and number one rated WBC super middleweight contender Sakio Bika faces number four rated WBC super middleweight contender Marco Antonio Periban in a 12-round fight for the vacant WBC Super Middle weight World Championship. SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® is available in Spanish on secondary audio programming (SAP). Preliminary fights will air on SHOWTIME EXTREME at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).
Tickets priced at $250, $125, $75, $50 and $25, plus applicable taxes and service charges, are on sale now at www.barclayscenter.com, www.ticketmaster.com, all Ticketmaster locations, by calling 800-745-3000 and at the American Express Box Office. For group tickets, please call 800-GROUP-BK.