In a text message to SI.com on Wednesday, unified heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko confirmed that Johnathan Banks — an active heavyweight and disciple of the late Emanuel Steward who assumed Steward’s role as Klitschko’s chief cornerman in a win over Mariusz Wach earlier this month — would continue on in that role.
“JB is my coach,” Klitschko said.
It has been a big month for Banks. After preparing Klitschko for his fight with Wach, Banks returned to the U.S. and upset highly touted heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell on HBO. After years of toiling on Klitschko undercards in Europe, suddenly Banks is a hot property.
“It’s been a surreal moment,” Banks said in a telephone interview. “When you always believe in something, you have to have patience to get there. I believed that I could beat [Mitchell] and I believe in my abilities to teach different things about boxing.”
Banks — who has been in Klitschko’s camps since Steward started training him in 2004 — said the chemistry working with Klitschko was instantaneous.
“The first day we worked together and did hand work, he loved it,” Banks said. “The combinations I chose, they worked. As a trainer, when you tell the fighter what combinations to throw, you tell him what the fighter can throw and what is going to work best for him. My feeling is that sometimes trainers put too much themselves and what they want into it. I keep what was going on with Emanuel. You can’t replace Emanuel. It’s not an option. I wanted to keep up the spirit of the camp.”
Of course, Banks is also looking forward to continuing his own fighting career. He is interested in a rematch with Mitchell, but prefers a fight with Alexander Povetkin, who owns a minor piece of the WBA heavyweight title, first.
Whatever happens in his career, Banks said training Klitschko will come first.
“Right now my priority will be the same as Emanuel,” Banks said. “And that’s training Wladimir Klitschko. That’s the main concern.”
– Chris Mannix