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Back to Business for Banks

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The first time Johnathon Banks faced Seth Mitchell back in November, there was quite a bit going on in his life. With the sudden passing of legendary trainer Emanuel Steward in October, he was thrust into the position of taking the reins as lead trainer for Wladimir Klitschko, who just happened to face Mariusz Wach in Germany. This just one week before his own bout with Mitchell in Atlantic City. And in the midst of all this, Banks attended Steward’s funeral in Detroit on the way to his own fight.
 
It didn’t seem to make all that much of a difference, In fact, Banks may have been spurred on by the emotion of Steward’s passing, shocking the undefeated Mitchell in two rounds.
 
As he faces “Mayhem” again this weekend at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn (Showtime, 9 p.m., ET/6 p.m., PT), things are a lot less hectic. But according to Banks, it’s all the same.

“It doesn’t really make a difference, to be honest about it, because I have to take it for what it is,” Banks told Maxboxing last Friday. “I was put in a situation and I dealt with it and I’m put into a situation now and I’m just dealing with it.”
 
This rematch is happening at the behest of Mitchell, who had a rematch clause he enforced.
 
“I’m not surprised. I understand I’m in there with a competitor. He’s a competitor. He wants to fight and he wants to win, so if he had a chance to avenge the only loss he has, why not take it? So that’s just what he’s doing. So I’m not surprised at all,” said Banks.
 
But if Banks was handling this career, knowing the relative inexperience of Mitchell (who lettered in football at Michigan State a decade ago) and how he was shattered into a million pieces in his last fight, would he have pulled the trigger on this return bout?
 
Banks chuckles a bit as he answers this question.
 
“I guess it would all depend on how he’s looking in the gym,” said Banks of this rematch, originally scheduled for February. Neither man has had a fight since their initial encounter. “Naturally, a fighter wants to fight, no matter who it is and I think that’s how [Mitchell]’s looking at it. But as a trainer, I’m not sure. It just depends on how my guy would be looking.”
 
Give Mitchell’s handlers (led by the influential Al Haymon) credit; they aren’t being shy. They aren’t just dipping their toes back into the water but diving right back in. On that night in Atlantic City, David slew Goliath - and he didn’t even need a slingshot. “I was in there with a big, strong guy that was coming forward to knock my head off. I remember that quite well like it was yesterday.” said Banks, who dumped Mitchell three times to the canvas in the second.
 
The question remains, is Mitchell just a football player trying to box? And does Banks view him in that light?

“Nah, I don’t,” he says. “I just see him as a fighter because his football playing days don’t matter because we’re not on the football field. For me, that doesn’t matter. It plays no different for me. I look at him as a fighter, like any other fighter that’s coming for a victory. Anything else would be disrespectful.”
 
But could it be argued that his late start into the sport will always be Mitchell’s handicap. Certain things, such as being able to relax in the ring, are honed from years in the gym and acclimating to this sport at an early age. However, Banks disagrees, stating, “I wouldn’t say that. A lot of guys get a late start in sports and a lot of them are better than guys that have been in the sport for a very long time, so it’s all about the learning scale. If he moved up really quick, his learning scale is very high. He learns easy; he adapts easy, so that’s why he’s at where he’s at now.”
 
A lot is at stake for the 30-year-old boxer/trainer from Detroit. Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions points out, “Banks is now rated number two in the WBC [and] WBO, top 10 in the IBF and WBA. He’s really at the top of the heavyweight division with a win over Seth Mitchell. He worked his way now up to the top. He was credible before. Beating Seth Mitchell on HBO gave him a lot of credibility, especially with that stunning second round knockout. Now, he’s fighting on Showtime Saturday and we expect him to have a similar performance just like he did the first time.”
 
But there is an unusual dynamic that exists given he just happens to trains the heavyweight champion, Wladimir Klitschko.
 
Loeffler admits, “That wouldn’t be realistic. One things for certain; Vitali and Wladimir would never fight each other. With Johnathon, it just wouldn’t make sense to fight against Wladimir. There’s a lot of other great heavyweight fights out there besides Wladimir and just depending on what Vitali does down the road, we think that the WBC title could be available to [Banks].”
 
First things first, Mitchell still has to topple Mitchell again. Banks expects the former ‘backer to blitz him early on.
 
“I think he’ll come out fast. I’m always cautious, so that’s going to happen. So yeah, I think he’s going to come out fast and he’s going to come out doing what he’s going to do to win. If he gets the big shot, I think he’s going to take it.”
 
But clearly what happened in their first encounter is on Banks’ mind. He knows he can buzz Mitchell when he touches him. Across from him could be a fighter who is psychologically scarred - but still dangerous.
 
“I knew I could punch and I knew it was the heavyweight division. One punch can change it all. So that’s the bottom line to it. I know for a fact I can punch and I know he can punch, so it’s a situation where you’re in there with another heavyweight that you just gotta be cautious because any shot can end it or any shot can hurt you.”
 
LEGACY
 
It’s clear that fighters like Banks and Adonis Stevenson, who were associated with Steward, continue fighting for the Kronk legacy.
 
“That - and don’t forget Wladimir Klitschko; that’s another one - so yeah, I would say so. Me and Wlad were talking the other day; we were saying how Emanuel laid the foundation. He gave us the foundation to go off of and we have no reason not to be successful. All we have to do is stick with the foundation that he gave us. You could build anything off of a good foundation and Emanuel gave us one of the best foundations you can give a fighter and you could build champions off of it.
 
“And that’s what we’re doing.”
 
When asked of the greatest lesson he learned from Steward, Banks replied, “Life. He taught me - it’s that old saying, ‘If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he eats for a lifetime.’ So he didn’t just teach me how to box; he taught me the understanding to be able to teach boxing as well. So not only do I know how to box - I understand boxing. So I’m able to do multiple things instead of just throw a punch and that’s it.
 
“He taught me so much about life in general. He just taught me a lot and I’m forever grateful for it and it allows me to be sharper on different things.”
 
BUZZKILL
 
During a media luncheon held for Gennady Golovkin and Zaurbek Baysangurov, it was announced that Baysangurov’s defense of his WBO 154-pound title against Demetrius Andrade (originally scheduled for July 6th) was postponed due to the defending champion’s lingering back issues.
 
Loeffler explained, “Baysangurov had a great training camp with Abel Sanchez and then over the weekend, he flew back to Kiev. He wasn’t feeling good; his back tightened up on him and so he went back to have a doctor check it. So that fight has now been canceled.”
 
In the meantime, the WBO will have Andrade take on Vanes Martirosyan for the newly vacant title. Loeffler says when Baysangurov is cleared to fight, he will then get a crack at the winner.
 
THE NEXT ROUND
 
Here’s the latest edition of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly:
 
 
KRONK FLURRIES
 
According to Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, this past edition of  HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” pulled in strong numbers: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/boxing/mikey-garcia-terence-crawford-score-kos-ring-ratings-003302915.html...With WBA welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi a bit busy on Saturday night at the Barclays Center, Bernard Hopkins joins the Showtime broadcast team...Bob Arum says Ray Beltran will face WBO lightweight beltholder Ricky Burns on September 7th. Burns’ promoter, Eddie Hearns, said on Twitter that while a deal is not finalized, it’s very close...I read on FightNews that Jeff Lacy is making a comeback. That’s not good...I guess having the Bengals back on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” is better than no “Hard Knocks” at all...So after all that talk, the Celtics and Clippers made no deal?...How ‘bout dem Padres, trying to sneak into the NL West race?...I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.


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