HEAVYWEIGHT boxing is always a risky business. Big men carry heavy hands. Wladimir Klitschko has been so dominant in recent years that at times he’s looked near enough invincible.
But cracks could be starting to show, especially after Klitschko was not as commanding as expected in April’s points victory over Bryant Jennings.
“Anybody that laces up a pair of gloves, with the legacy Wladimir’s got – the longer you go, everybody gets more dangerous. You see the finishing line, and everybody else sees it too, so they don’t want you to get there,” Klitschko’s trainer Johnathon Banks told Boxing News.
“Everybody else is much more dangerous because they want to stop you, everybody sees you going for the finish line. Whoever stops you will be seen as the best, because they’d have stopped the best. These guys are getting dangerous because they know that this is their last chance to become the best in history.
“‘Who’s the longest-reigning heavyweight champ in history?’ – ‘Wladimir Klitschko’ – ‘Who beat him?’… so that makes it really, really big for them to fight Wladimir. They not gonna make a run like that themselves, there’s nobody in boxing who can. Just to be able to stop this reign: that’s what it is, they’re trying to stop it. They’re not trying to beat him bad, they just trying to do enough to win.”
On October 24 Klitschko puts his WBO, WBA and IBF world heavyweight titles on the line against Tyson Fury in Dusseldorf. “Right now it’s Tyson Fury: that’s who’s on the chopping board, so he’s the most dangerous opponent right now. If I was Tyson Fury I’d have gone after Deontay Wilder, and got that title, and then made it a HUGE fight with Wlad Klitschko,” Banks said. “I think [Wilder’s] a pretty good fighter, I mean he’s WBC champion, so I think he’s a good fighter. He’s a talent.”
Banks has been forging his trainer-fighter bond with Klitschko since the sad death of Manny Steward. The American was initially surprised when the heavyweight champion asked him to assume the responsibility. “It all happened, it was like one big boom when it happened,” Banks recalls. “I never, ever held pads for Wladimir, ever, until the day he wanted me to train him. I went over to Austria and held pads for the very first time. I was nervous. I was nervous, because I’d never held pads for him before. All the stuff we did in the ring together, all the combinations, we had gloves on.
“Different circumstances call for different things, I don’t know. He didn’t have a professional chef when I met him: it was just me and him. He didn’t have a lot of sparring partners; that’s why me and him got so close. We put in round, after round, after round, getting him ready for his fight. We spent a lot of time together, a whole lot of time, it’s crazy, and we drew closer together. And it’s like we created the brotherhood because we spent so many times just by ourselves. Emmanuel had to go and do HBO? It’s me and Wlad. Emmanuel come back, and he do whatever? It’s me and him, so the situation: we’ve just grown really close.
“He would ask me about, ‘Do I know about sparring?’ He’d ask me: ‘What do you think about how I look at it?’ I’d say, ‘You can do better,’ always it’d be, ‘You can do better.’ And Emmanuel would be sitting there, and he’d ask me, and I’d start talking to him: me and Emmanuel always talked.
“And the relationship grew from there, and I remember in 2007, 2008 something like that, Wladimir said, ‘You know what, JB? I think you would be a great coach.’ I said, ‘Why you say that?’ He said, ‘I just think so. The way me and you talk. The way you look at boxing, I just think you’d be a great coach. If something ever happened, if Emmanuel couldn’t make it, the only person I can see training me is you.’
“I said, ‘Come on, man, you got an assistant trainer, been in boxing a lot longer than I’ve been born.’ He said, ‘Yeah, but it doesn’t take the age of the person to make a good coach, just the way you talk and explain things, and the way you’re learning from the best coach in history, so you can’t help but be good.’ And I just left it alone, I didn’t think nothing of it, and just years go by, years go by, and when that phone call happened… I’m still shocked that he called me to train him. I don’t know, it baffles me how he called me, among all the names that I could think of. And I wasn’t no trainer that time. That was the last thing on somebody’s mindset, of being a trainer. ‘You got your assistant right here, why me?’
“I say I consider myself, I really feel I’m a teacher: same thing as a teacher standing in front of a class at school. Teachers want to explain something to the point where students will learn, so I count myself as a teacher. Because I was taught by a teacher.”