By Keith Idec
Johnathon Banks doesn’t dispute that these past few weeks have taken quite an emotional toll on him.
That was to be expected, considering the impact Emanuel Steward had on his personal and professional lives. One of the countless things the late trainer taught Banks, however, was that, barring a prohibitive injury, the show must go on.
Banks (28-1-1, 20 KOs) fully understands that he must channel all the raw emotion lingering from Steward’s death Oct. 25 when he steps into the ring Saturday night to fight Seth Mitchell (25-0-1, 19 KOs) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Detroit’s Banks can significantly enhance his status in the heavyweight division by beating the former Michigan State linebacker in their scheduled 12-rounder, and he realizes it isn’t an opportunity he can afford to waste.
“When it comes to fighting, you’ve got to shut everything out,” Banks said. “Fighting is like going to war. You’ve got to shut everything out and you’ve got to go to war. No matter what’s going on at home, when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.
“And that’s just the situation that we’re in. Saturday night, I have to go. No matter what’s going on mentally, or what’s going on the last month, on Saturday night I have to be prepared to go.”
Banks attended a memorial service for Steward on Tuesday in Detroit, where Steward helped mold Banks into a professional prizefighter and trainer at the legendary Kronk Gym.
“We’re talking about going back to a 15-year-old kid, you know, [that’s how long] I’ve been looking up to this guy,” Banks, 30, said. “I grew up being around the Lennox Lewis training camps, flying to Big Bear to train Oscar [De La Hoya], coming to train Prince Naseem [Hamed].
“So, I mean, he kept me in boxing, he kept me around boxing and I really, really learned a lot from him, as far as life, as far as leading, as far as the fighters, as far as actually the fundamentals about training, about boxing. I even lived with him for a few years, also. There was one point that for years and years where we were together every day. We traveled together. Even when he went to broadcast on HBO, I would go with him a lot of times.”
Banks became Wladimir Klitschko’s trainer once it became clear Steward wouldn’t physically be able to train Klitschko due to the brief, undisclosed illness that took his life at the age of 68. He guided Klitschko (59-3, 50 KOs) to a 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat of Poland’s Mariusz Wach (27-1, 15 KOs) on Saturday in Hamburg, Germany. He thought a lot about Steward that night, too.
“As far as what he meant, I mean, anything I guess what a father means to a kid, he meant a lot to me,” Banks said. “The guy was a great mentor, he was a great father figure and he just was a great overall person. … It was nothing but a blessing for me.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.