Johnathon Banks, a former heavyweight contender, is now a renowned trainer following in the footsteps of the great Emanuel Steward. Currently working with Badou Jack, Banks also discusses his own professional career, his time spent sparring the Klitschko brothers and the science of hitting hard.

BS: You train Badou Jack. Is he a future hall-of-famer? 

Banks: He’s a three-division world champion. So you can't help but become a Hall of Famer. Having that resume that alone is enough to be.

BS: Why was Badou so good? It seemed like he had a blue-collar style?

Banks: He didn’t have the knockout power, he didn't have a big boost as far as he was so popular that no matter what he did, he was successful. He came up the hard way. He did it the hard way. I think the main thing he has is the respect of most people that's in the sport.

BS: Could fighters like Jai Opetaia or even Dmitrii Bivol or Artur Beterbiev be in his future? 

Banks: I think the sky's the limit. If they can make the fight, why not? He has shown in his career that he's willing to fight anybody.

BS: What is your greatest boxing memory? 

Banks: Everything I ever did was a great memory, but especially the things I was able to do around even the late great Emanuel Steward was my greatest memory.

BS: One that stands out?

Banks: It was special. I wasn’t in a position where I look back and say, ‘Man, I really wish I would have did XYZ’. No, I lived in each moment that I was in, and I got everything out of it and the most out of it that I could get the greatness I was able to be around. 

Even when I was 16 years old he took me to Lennox Lewis’ training camp. I realized that I was in a rare position to be a part of this man's training camp. So I was able to absorb everything and so on. When I went to Wladimir Klitschko’s training camp or Vitali Klitschko’s training camp, everything I was around dealing with Emanuel. I was able to appreciate everything in the moment. So, therefore, when I need something from those moments, I'm able to recall it in memory, or in memory when I needed it in training or something like that.

BS: The difference between sparring Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko?

Banks: Night and day. Wladimir was a typical boxer. He tried to outbox the boxer, or he's going to try to counter you and stuff like that. Vitali was just relentless. He's just coming to punch you. He doesn’t care where or how. There's no such thing as a perfect punch. Whatever punches he throws he feels is the perfect punch. Wladimir is looking to time you and catch you with the best punch. Vitali just wants to hit you and keep hitting you. He was a lot more active than Wladimir was. 

BS: Your thoughts on power as it pertains to boxing with great punchers like George Foreman, Deontay Wilder and Gennadiy Golovkin.

Banks: When you put George Foreman in the mix – and people don't understand this — the heavyweight rules were because of George Foreman. The gloves they used were changed because of him. That's why they went up to 10 ounces, because George Foreman hit a man so hard he broke his arm. So, they had to put heavier gloves on the heavyweights. Think about that. If you want to talk about punching somebody so hard that they break their arm, we talking about that type of power. [Mike] Tyson, that's a different atmosphere. When you get hit from a guy, when they just go to sleep. That's a different caliber of a puncher. Looking at their resume, looking at these, hardest punchers in history, look at their resume. They don't got nothing to do with skill. Most guys are maybe more skilled than the puncher. As soon as they get caught, it's like they go to sleep.

BS: Would you rather train a great puncher or a great boxer? 

Banks: A big puncher, because I can always teach the puncher how to box. But at the same time, you can flip a coin and hand it to me, but you asked me what I choose. I can teach the boxer how to punch, and I can teach the puncher how to box. At the same time, what type of punching power you talking about? Talking about that, that Triple G, Deontay Wilder power, that's something you born with. You can’t teach that. 

BS: How important is keeping a fighter’s identity?

Banks: I think it is key, because this is just me. Personally, this is how I was taught. I look at myself as like a seamstress. Every fighter’s got a different style, and it's tailored just for you. Now, don’t get me wrong, we may have the same shoes on, we may have the same color, but my outfit is tailored for my body, so we can change clothes, but my clothes won’t fit. So, in other words, this style is tailored for this individual. So that's what I try to do when I work with a fighter, when I train the fighter, I get to know how that fighter is, that personality and tailor a style for them personally, so they have nothing to remember and all they have to do when fight night is react.

BS: Motivation or instruction in the corner – which is more important?

Banks: Each fight is different. Certain instructions can lead to motivation. And some guys, you motivate. It's like throwing rocks in the water, for what it does no good. Each fighter is different. That's the importance of knowing who you with, knowing your audience, know what they need in that moment, sometimes they might need to get cussed out. You have to learn what the fighter needs, what pushes the fighter’s buttons.

BS: How much does a coach matter? 

Banks: From what I've seen, from what I've came up around, it is just as important. Some people put on a coach's uniform, but they are really teachers. Emanuel Steward was a teacher, and he knew what to do, how to do, and at that exact moment. He was one of the master keys that would open any door. You know how someone will say here is the keys to the city – it will open any gym in the city. That was Emanuel Steward. 

BS: How important is it to be a teacher?

Banks: You put a good teacher in the roughest, non-educated area of the school,  and you went from no graduates to consistently graduates, graduates, graduates. That's what I'm talking about when I say, No graduates. I'm talking about no Olympians, no gold medals from the amateurs to turning pro to world champions over and over again. How many coaches can actually do that? 

That's one of the hardest things to do, is taking guys from amateurs to pro to world champions, and once they become world champions. So that's how you know. That's the evidence that you have a teacher around, because a teacher can teach one child a problem, if you can't teach another child that problem, you're not that good of a teacher. If you can teach anybody, and you are doing it over and over again – that’s the evidence of a good teacher. 

BS: That’s why USA Boxing is so important.

Banks: I like USA Boxing, but I don’t love USA Boxing. I think USA Boxing, as rich as this country is, they don’t do enough in USA Boxing. I am not talking about the Olympians, let’s talk about the nine or 10-year-old that can fight maybe once or twice a year, stuff like that. Let's do more interaction with everybody that registered. You have access to this registration. You have to approve this registration. You have automatic messages to get something back to them or register.

If so many other countries are that much more invested with the amateur program, let's say, 2004 I believe was last unit of fighters that USA boxing really was invested. Now look at the legends of the sport, 95% of them are former Olympians. One of the guys they consider the greatest of all-time Muhammad Ali, Rome 1960 Olympic Gold medalist. So you got all these great fighters. So how do you become great fighters? You go through the methods. You go through the trials. You go through the rough battles, because that's your apprenticeship. That’s what allows you to be, learn how to move, learn how to win, know how to go back to back, fight different styles. I just think that more acknowledgement, more personal development, in an amateur boxing program [then] I think in another five years  we would have more superstars back to back, back to back.