Feature | Premium | Apr 23 2019

Addicted – The Paul Banke story

Paul Banke had his life turned upside down by drugs. But even the addiction, the holes in his arms, the homelessness and the news - at 31 years old - that he was HIV positive could not finish him off
Paul Banke

PAUL BANKE picks up my video call at 4.45am Los Angeles time. As an insomniac his day is already a couple of hours old. His house is alive with the sound of his nine pet birds along with the three dogs which keep him company. I’d heard about his struggles but had no idea what to expect, no idea how tough times may have taken their toll. But today, looking younger than his 53 years with a bright and healthy appearance, Banke could hardly be used as a gnarled poster boy for anti-drugs campaigns. Bearing no outward signs of years battling addiction and HIV, it’s unmistakeably the good-looking west coast kid who produced fireworks during his life as a boxer. In retirement however, Paul Banke entered a whole new world of pain.

Banke was raised by his aunt and uncle in Asuza, California and as a teenager his amateur career took off. Fighting internationally for the USA saw him in with high calibre opposition, although he was eventually denied at the Olympic trials.

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