by David P. Greisman
Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City — It was the biggest win of Johnathon Banks’ career for two significant reasons.
His career had stalled. Once a cruiserweight prospect with famed trainer Emanuel Steward in his corner, he had lost in 2009 to Tomasz Adamek and proceeded into relative heavyweight obscurity. In recent years had he fought almost primarily in Europe against low-level opponents.
And then Steward had died in October, a sudden loss that didn’t just leave Banks without his trainer, but also without a father figure who had long been influential in his life. Steward would not be in his corner for Banks’ Nov. 17 fight with Seth Mitchell.
Not physically, at least.
Banks dedicated the fight to Steward’s memory, and he proceeded to stop Mitchell in the second round, demolishing a heavyweight prospect who had been proclaimed the next notable American big man, and who had been spotlighted again and again on HBO.
But there are other American heavyweights. And Banks showed Saturday that there are better American heavyweights, too.
Banks came out aggressively, working behind his jab in the opening seconds of the opening round. Mitchell also turned to his jab, then soon followed with an overhand right that missed by a good foot. Mitchell soon was the one coming forward, missing most of his right hands, but landing a couple. Toward the end of the round, though, Banks did land a right hand counter shot as Mitchell came forward.
Banks would soon use Mitchell’s aggression against him again.
Banks began the second round with a jab to Mitchell’s body, followed by a few stiff jabs that landed to Mitchell’s head. He moved to his left, and then missed a left hook as Mitchell came in. Mitchell responded with a hard right hand to the side of Banks’ body that drew an audible reaction from the crowd.
Emboldened, Mitchell tried an overhand right that missed. Worse, Banks countered the shot and put Mitchell onto the canvas.
Mitchell rose. Banks looked to close the show, throwing hard right hands to Mitchell’s head and body. Mitchell had difficulty holding on, and instead opted for a haymaker of a left hook that slapped Banks behind his head. Banks took that well and sent a right hand to the body and a left hand to Mitchell’s head. Mitchell tried to hold, but got hit with a right, followed by a left and another right, and once again he was down. Banks fell to the mat himself in the process.
Mitchell got up once more, holding the ropes with one hand as the referee spoke to him. Banks soon finished Mitchell off with more right hands and left hooks, sending Mitchell down for the third time and leading the referee to call an end to the bout
The time of the stoppage was 2:37.
“Seth never saw my left hook. He was not experienced enough to hang on or to hold, therefore I was able to continue to hurt him at will,” Banks said afterward.
Banks, 30, of Detroit, is now 29-1-1 with 19 knockouts.
“The fight is dedicated to Emanuel Steward and everything he did in me life for me since I was 15,” he said.
Mitchell, 30, of Brandywine, Md., is now 25-1-1 with 19 knockouts.
“I could’ve gotten through the round, but the ref did what he had to do,” Mitchell said afterward. “The first round, he caught me with some good shots, but I still thought I won the round. In the second round the game plan was to be a little smarter and not get caught, but then I threw a looping shot and he did what he was supposed to do. He counter punched me.
“I am good. I feel okay,” Mitchell said. “I’ll be back.”
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at [email protected].