JONATHAN BANKS SPEAKS
By Doveed Linder
Heavyweight contender Johnathon Banks (29-1-1, 19 KOs) discusses his experiences training heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko for Klitschkoís recent victory over Mariusz Wach, how he was affected by the passing of his mentor and trainer Emanuel Steward, Banks' own victory over Seth Mitchell (which came via second-round TKO), and more.
DL: When it was discovered that Emanuel Steward was of ill health, why were you the appropriate choice as his replacement to train Wladimir Klitschko?
JB: I donít think there could ever be a solid answer for that. I canít even tell you why they chose me. Maybe itís because Iíve been around Wladimir more than anyone else, other than Emanuel. Wladimir and I always talked boxing together. We had a relationship that started in 2004. We started sparring together. Weíve probably sparred with each other more than anyone else. Weíve gone eight rounds one day, ten rounds another dayÖ Weíve spent a lot of time together, so I guess it made sense.
DL: Whose decision was it?
JB: It was the first thing out of Emanuelís mouth and it was the first thing in Wladimirís mind. Thatís what he told me. It was the first thing in his mind. For Wladimir, I think it was the obvious choice. He had no concerns. Other people didnít like the idea. They said that Johnathon has a fight coming up, Johnathon is still an active fighter, Johnathon cannot be focused on WladimirÖ To these guys, Iím just a kid. Are you going to get a kid to train you? But Wladimir knew what he wanted. So I got to camp and we started doing pad work. After the first day of doing pad work, he said that he had no doubts previously, but now he DEFINITELY had no doubts.
DL: Had you ever contemplated training fighters before this?
JB: No, I didnít. I didnít see it. I always liked helping out Emanuel with his guys, but I never saw myself in the role of a trainer.
DL: How did you balance your time between the preparations for Klitschkoís fight with Mariusz Wach and your training schedule for your fight with Seth Mitchell?
JB: When I took on the job, I moved my training camp to Wladimirís camp. And Wladimir had no problem with that. Weíve trained together many times when we both had fights coming up. I had my own schedule and my own sparring partners. It became a good thing. It was actually easier than what it sounds like. I just stuck to my schedule. I trained in the morning and when he came in, I was ready for him. Even during Wladimirís fight week, I was still in training. I had to spar that week. But as long as we stuck to the schedule, it worked.
DL: When you learned of Emanuel Stewardís passing, how did you process everything? You had just lost a close friend, but you had to stay strong because of the tasks at hand.
JB: I lost a close personal friend. A father figure. I had been around him since I was fifteen years old. He showed me everything. He taught me how to shave. All that stuff. It was hard to process. The only thing that would go through my head is, what would Emanuel do right now? Emanuel would continue to workout, Emanuel would continue to trainÖ So thatís what I did. I continued for his memory.
DL: You performed better against Seth Mitchell than you have against other heavyweights who arenít perceived as being as good as him. What do you attribute that to?
JB: Ever since I turned thirty, itís just a different motivation for me. I canít put my finger on it. I just look at the world differently now. Maybe I feel that this is it for me. Maybe I feel like the end is near. When youíre twenty-two, you feel like the world is your oyster. Youíre only twenty-two years old! What canít you do? Now, Iím thirty and itís different. My time is now. I need to capitalize on everything I can right now.
DL: What are your plans now? Who is on your radar?
JB: I donít know right now. Iím waiting to see what my people bring my way. A WBA title shot (against regular champion Alexander Povetkin) would be nice. That would be an ideal situation.
DL: Will you continue training Wladimir Klitschko?
JB: As far as I know. Yes.
DL: These past few months, youíve had to make unreasonable demands of yourself. Now that youíve had a chance to take a deep breath and relax a little, what are your thoughts about everything that has transpired?
JB: Wow. Thatís the only thing I think. Wow. I did all that and I kept my sanity. And I performed like a true professional. Iím very happy with myself right now.
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