Feature Story

Johnathon Banks breaking the mold with his double duty lifestyle

Report and photo by John DiSanto
Philly Boxing History (.com)

World-ranked heavyweight contender Johnathon Banks, 29-1-1, 19 KOs, of Detroit, MI, hosted a media luncheon at Harrington’s Bar & Grille, in New York, a few hours before the big Madison Square Garden championship boxing tripleheader Saturday. Banks, also the head trainer for heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, was anxious to discuss his upcoming rematch with Seth Mitchell (Saturday, February 16th on HBO), but it became clear that preparing for this important fight is just part of Banks’ very full career schedule.

In addition to working his way up the heavyweight ladder, Banks has taken on responsibilities as heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko’s head trainer. A long-time sparring partner of Wladimir’s, and a product of the legendary Kronk Boxing Gym and trainer Emanuel Steward, Banks stepped into the role as the champ’s trainer in the immediate aftermath of Steward’s recent death. Knowing the Steward training philosophies cold, and being so familiar with Klitschko, after eight years as his primary sparring mate, Banks was the obvious choice as a fast fill-in.

However, there is no plan to change things in Klitschko’s corner, as both Banks and Klitschko like the way things are working.

“I’m passionate about what I do,” Banks said. “No matter what it is, if I’m doing something I love, I’m passionate about it.”

So Banks intends to continue living his double duty lifestyle.

“It’s just that we can’t fight on the same date,” Banks said.

With Klitschko’s most recent fight (W12 Maruisz Wach) now in the books, Banks the fighter is up next. He will attempt to repeat his impressive win over Seth Mitchell next month.

Banks defeated Mitchell by 2nd round TKO in their first meeting, also televised by HBO, November 17, 2012. Banks’ victory in that battle of rising heavyweight prospects was quite definitive. So the fact that an immediate rematch was put together, surprised many, including Banks, who was not aware that the first fight included a rematch clause.

“Rematch? What rematch?,” Banks asked when he was told that Mitchell was considering exercising his rematch clause. “It doesn’t bother me. In fact I like that they are still building him up as the future of the heavyweight division. It makes a better fight for me, knowing that I’m fighting the future of the division. And I look forward to fighting him just like I did in November. It will be a different date, and I expect a different Seth Mitchell, but I expect the same result.”

If Banks can muster a similar outcome in the Mitchell rematch, it should push him further up the heavyweight rankings and perhaps even put him on a collision course with his friend, sparring partner, and boss, Wladimir Klitschko. However, Banks does not anticipate a scenario that would make him want to fight Wlad.

“I can’t think of one (scenario),” he said. “In my opinion, this is not an everyday thing. Fighters have short (career) life spans to do what they want to do in their career. And once you get near the top, you have opportunities to go for what you’ve been dreaming of. But in my opinion, some things are bigger than the sport. In life, there’s really nothing that can replace that value that you set for your family and friends. So therefore, whether it’s a lot of money or a lot of talk, or something else, it makes it hard to go in a certain direction. ”

In other words, Banks will target some other heavyweight title holder.

“In my wildest dreams, I would predict that Vitali will retire to go into politics,” Banks said. “That would vacate the WBC title and allow me to fight for the WBC title.”

Until then, Banks will continue working this very unique situation and seems quite happy being both a heavyweight contender on the move and the trainer of the heavyweight champion of the world. This double duty phenomenon hasn’t happened before, and it seems certain that it won’t happen again. Johnathon Banks has broken the mold when it comes to both boxers and trainers, and somewhere Emanuel Steward is smiling.

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