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Johnathon Banks: ‘Emanuel Steward is with me at all times’

Gennadiy Golovkin (left) and trainer Johnathon Banks. Photo credit: DAZN/ GGG Promotions
Fighters Network

Gennadiy Golovkin has been all-in on camp since early-August and there is a good degree of curiosity in the air to see how he looks this time out, in his second outing under the eye of tutor Johnathon Banks.

You will recall that Banks provided oversight in “GGG’s” most recent ring foray versus Steve Rolls in Madison Square Garden on June 8.

This go-round, GGG is taking a step-up-plus, as he will meet a boxer nicknamed “The Technician,” the Ukrainian Sergiy Derevyanchenko in the Garden’s big room on October 5.

I spoke to an insider who had the chance to spend quality time watching Banks and the 37-year-old Kazakh pugilist.

While Banks has his own style of training, he clearly is a student – a disciple – of his mentor Emanuel Steward. In fact, he still wears his KRONK boxing boots when he gets into the ring with Golovkin.

The other day, Banks, who retired as an active fighter with a 29-3-1 (with 19 knockouts) mark in 2014, wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the motto “Drive + Determination + Dedication = Success” and he entered the ring during Golovkin’s sparring session, rather than taking the customary position in a corner outside the ring, looking more like a referee than a trainer. “The happier the fighter is, the better the fighter becomes,” the insider relayed something Banks stated. “Gennadiy is a happy warrior. He loves his work. He fights with such joy.”

Rhythm and movement are two of the top elements that Banks has been and will be hammering.

Banks sometimes flashes back to when he told Manny Steward how impressed he was when he saw GGG fight as an amateur. The variety in his game is something that impressed Banks, when he saw the kid who won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games.

I’m getting the feeling that proof of Banks’ meshing with GGG in this, their second outing and first full camp together, will be if we see more movement and a variety of style. Yes, not an easy lift; we know about older dogs and newer tricks. Or about ultra-vets looking to tweak their games, after muscle memory entrenches itself over decades.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 08: Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan (red trunks) trades punches with Steve Rolls of Canada (white trunks) during their Super Middleweights fight at Madison Square Garden on June 08, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 08: Gennadiy Golovkin of Kazakhstan (right) trades punches with Steve Rolls of Canada at Madison Square Garden on June 08, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

The insider was able to dig deep with the Detroit product Banks and hear about what sort of influence Steward has over him. The king of Kronk died in 2012; he’d trained 41 world champs and was universally beloved among fighters, fans, media. Everyone by and large adored the amiable professor.

“Manny is with me at all times,” Banks told the insider. “I hear his voice when I’m training a fighter, reviewing tapes or just meditating on strategy. I am so lucky to have had him as a mentor.”

I chatted with Banks myself on Tuesday night, not long after he left Shane Mosley’s gym in Big Bear, California, where he and GGG were drilling.

That Steward influence, I wondered, could he flesh that out for me?

“Those shoes are entirely too big for me to walk in,” the ex-boxer said with awesome humility. “The lives he touched! But the path I’m on, he led me down that path. I learned how to train fighters from him.”

So that explains some of the touches that so far seem to delight GGG (39-1-1, with 35 KOs). The reassuring, the positivity, with the necessary occasional critique, in the ratio Steward employed, have been working, it seems, with the Kazakh, who will battle Derevyanchenko for the vacant IBF middleweight strap.

And about the Technician (13-1, 10 KOs), a 33-year-old athlete trained by Andre Rozier, what is Banks’ take on him? Can he give us a scouting report? “Good fighter, with strong amateur background,” Banks shared.

OK, how well have they meshed? Are there still growing pains in this new relationship between fighter and trainer? “Like peanut butter and jelly,” that’s how well the pairing is working, Banks said, with a sly chuckle. He said we can expect more activity and head movement come October 5.

My three cents: No BS-ing, the jury will deliberate and will need to see that October 5 scrap in person or on DAZN to see just how well the still new mash-up goes. GGG debuted as a pro in 2005, so he is set in his ways and only time will tell us if he’s able to switch up some and re-introduce those traits Banks is seeking.



Michael Woods is a Brooklyn resident. He worked at NY Newsday, ESPN The Magazine and today does blow-by-blow for Facebook FightNight Live, which will soon announce a Season Three slate. You can follow him on Twitter @Woodsy1069.




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