Wednesday, March 22, 2023  |


Johnathon Banks following dream as fighter, Klitschko’s trainer

Antonio Tarver (L) and Johnathon Banks. Photo by Carlos Baeza

Antonio Tarver (L) and Johnathon Banks. Photo by Carlos Baeza

If Johnathon Banks were to lose what he has called “must-win fight” against former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver on Thursday, he would “100 percent” have to seriously consider retiring to become a full time trainer for RING heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.

“You have to think about the win and the loss column, and that’s why you train,” said Banks, 32, who will end a 18-month ring absence against Tarver in a heavyweight bout at the Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula, Calif.

“That’s why you work so hard in the gym because you don’t want to lose. But if you do, then I think that in the place that I’m at, now, and with boxing, and with my life, that would have to think about that.”

Promoted by Goossen Promotions, Tarver-Banks will support the main event between junior middleweight Austin Trout and Luis Grajeda.

A native of Detroit, Banks (29-2-1, 19 knockouts) split his past two bouts with Seth Mitchell, stopping Mitchell in the second round in November 2012 but lost by unanimous decision in their June 2013 rematch which was the last time Banks was in action.

“What’s at stake for me is getting back into action and getting back into the winning column and getting back on stage and in the ring, which is where I truly want to be, and I’m totally ready,” said Banks, who fractured his hands during his return bout with Mitchell.

“I don’t look at no fight as an easy fight, and I think that the Tarver fight is going to be an extremely difficult fight. But this is something that I have to go through and persevere through in order to continue to make myself relevant in the sport and to be taken seriously.”

Banks was formerly advised and trained himself by the late Emanuel Steward, to whom he served as an assistant working with Klitschko, 38, holder of the IBF, WBA and WBO titles.

Banks prepared Klitschko for his Nov. 15 defense against Pulev prior to entering the ring for a fight, himself. The scenario was similar to when Banks prepped Klitschko for his unanimous decision over Mariusz Wach on Nov. 10, 2012, a bout that transpired seven days prior to Banks’ second-round stoppage victory over Mitchell, whom he floored three times in Nov. 17, 2012.

“I think that Wladimir looked good when he fought Mariusz Wach, but I think that he’s gotten a lot better,” said Banks. “This fight with Pulev, for example, he was doing a lot more things so to speak than he was against Wach.”

In between the wins against Wach and Pulev, Klitschko stopped previously undefeated Francesco Pianeta in the sixth round in May 2013, scored four knockdowns during a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Alexander Povetkin in October 2013, and floored Alex Leapai thrice during a fifth-round knockout victory in April.

“There is absolutely no sign of Wladimir slowing down at all, and that’s the scary part. I see him picking up more momentum instead of slowing down. It’s scary for me to see that. As I look at him, and being around him since 2004, he’s acting like he’s just starting his pro career,” said Banks.

“That’s the mentality that he has. He’s got so much momentum going for him. Our work rate and our chemistry has become so much better since the first fight against Wach. That was a big thing that we were concerned about in that first fight.”

Meanwhile, Banks must get beyond Tarver (30-6, 21 KOs), who turned 46 last month. A resident of the Tampa Bay area, Tarver had his most recent fight last November when he scored a fourth round stoppage of Mike Sheppard that ended a 17-month ring absence.

Tarver had returned to action for the first time since June 2012, when he tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid drostanolone following a draw-turned-no-contest against Lateef Kayode.

A 1996 Olympic bronze medalist, Tarver is best known for winning two of three bouts against Roy Jones Jr., including a second round stoppage victory in their second meeting.

Tarver had won two straight before facing Kayode, having scored a unanimous decision as a heavyweight against Nagy Aguilera in October 2010 and a ninth round stoppage of cruiserweight Danny Green in July of 2011.

“From my perspective, I’m sure that a lot of fans are wondering why both of us are still fighting, Tarver and myself. Tarver, because of his age, and me, because of my other career with Wladimir Klitschko. So it’s always going to be a question for me, just like with any other fighter when you step into the ring,” said Banks.

“You’re always trying to prove to the people watching that you still have what it takes to perform at this level. But being a fighter, that’s what’s natural to me, and that’s my dream, to be a fighter. I always feel that when you follow your dream, and you follow your heart, you pick up other things along the way. I got to this position of being a trainer by following my dreams, and I don’t know how much more will come of it, but I’ll continue to follow my dreams.”

Note: Banks weighed in at 211.8 pounds to 225.6 for Tarver.