By Keith Idec
Trainers typically save fighters from themselves, not vice versa.
In the case of Johnathon Banks, however, the heavyweight champion he trains probably prevented him from making a costly mistake four months ago.
Banks suffered a fracture to a bone in his right thumb while sparring Feb. 4 for his heavyweight rematch against Seth Mitchell. A hand specialist in his native Detroit told Banks the next day his injury would require six weeks worth of rest to truly heal, but Banks still wanted to go forward with the Mitchell rematch, then scheduled for Feb. 16 in Atlantic City.
It took a call from Wladimir Klitschko to convince Banks that postponing the rematch was the right thing to do.
“Well, actually I was going to fight with a broken thumb because I wanted to fight,” Banks said on a recent conference call to promote their rematch, which was rescheduled for Saturday night in Brooklyn. “Preparing for a fight, you’re spending your money. Preparing for a fight and then you call the fight off, I don’t like doing that, and I was going to go through with the fight. Wladimir Klitschko called me and asked me not to go through with the fight. He said, ‘Dude, you broke your thumb. Why would you risk going into a fight handicapped?’ ”
In hindsight, Banks (29-1-1, 19 KOs) is very appreciative that Klitschko talked some sense into him. The 30-year-old contender’s career is headed in the right direction after a second-round technical knockout of Mitchell (25-1-1, 19 KOs) on Nov. 17 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City and fighting Mitchell again at less than 100 percent simply wouldn’t have been a smart move.
“I’m a fighter,” Banks said. “I just want to fight. So I figured if I could walk, if I could talk, if I could throw [my right hand], I said, ‘Let’s fight.’ But like I say, he talked to me. That’s why, once again, you surround yourself with people that are knowledgeable about the game, so when you’re not thinking knowledgeably, they can bring you back to reality.”
Banks would’ve really regretted entering the ring at less than 100 percent, particularly if Mitchell, a former Michigan State football player from Brandywine, Md., would’ve beaten him.
“If I lose, let me be at 100 percent,” Banks said. “I can live with that, losing at 100 percent. But I can’t live with being halfway ready and then I lose. I don’t want anything like that to happen.”
The 12-round Banks-Mitchell rematch will be one of three fights televised live by Showtime on Saturday night from Barclays Center.
The telecast will begin at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT with a 12-round super middleweight bout between Cameroon’s Sakio Bika (31-5-2, 21 KOs) and Mexico’s Marco Antonio Periban (20-0, 13 KOs), who will fight for the vacant WBC 168-pound championship. Brooklyn’s Paulie Malignaggi (32-4, 7 KOs) will defend his WBA welterweight title against WBC lightweight champion Adrien Broner (26-0, 22 KOs), a Cincinnati native who has moved up two weight classes for this 12-round main event.
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.