ATLANTIC CITY– Heavyweight contender Johnathon Banks watched on HBO as undefeated Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell overcame a rocky start to score a third-round knockout of Chazz Witherspoon in April at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
Then, not long after the bout had ended, Banks received a call from trainer Emanuel “Manny” Steward.
“As it was happening, I received a text message from Emanuel, because Emanuel knows how badly I have wanted to fight this guy. I’ve been talking about it for a year, and then, he called me right after the fight. So I told him this is the fight that I wanted,” said Banks.
“Not saying that I thought that it was an easy fight, because Seth is a big, strong guy. But it’s because the people love him, and the people think so highly of him, so I said, ‘that’s who I want.’ I saw the fight, and then Emanuel said, ‘Johnathon, I think you can beat this guy.’ I said, ‘Emanuel, I think so too. I think I can out-box him.’”
Banks (28-1-1, 18 knockouts) will get his shot on Saturday night, when he enters the ring opposite Mitchell (25-0-1, 19 KOs) in a clash of 30-year-olds at Boardwalk Hall.
But Steward will not be there to see him fight Mitchell: The Hall of Fame legend died on Oct. age of 68.
“Manny turned me pro. I was on his amateur team,” said Banks, who attended Steward’s funeral in Detroit on Wednesday. “He turned me pro, gave me my first contract. He’s the reason I’m here right now.”
Before his death, Steward charged Banks with training RING IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko for his unanimous decision victory over Polish-born challenger Mariusz Wach on Nov. 10, this, after having been Klitschko’s trainer over the course of a 16-fight winning streak.
“Manny was always there. I always traveled with him every where that he went. He said, ‘come on, Johnathon, we’re going to California,’ because, at the time, Wladimir was training in California,” said Banks, Klitschko’s longtime sparring partner.
“At that point, I was 3-0 or 4-0, getting seven or eight rounds of sparring in with Wladimir, which is unheard of for Wladimir. I’m the only guy that he’s been with, other than his brother, [[WBA titleholder Vitali] Klitscko, who has put in as many rounds in with him as I have.”
Trained by Steward’s nephew, Sugar Hill, Banks said he still hears Steward’s voice.
“Manny just told me, ‘Johnathon, just don’t get caught with nothing stupid, because he’s a big guy, and a big puncher.’ He said, ‘don’t get caught with those big shots, because if you box him right, and you do it the right way, I feel that you have a good chance of beating him,’” said Banks.
“But I’m expecting a really tough fight. I’m expecting Seth to be as aggressive as he always is, and as aggressive as he knows how to be. As always, I go into the fight expecting the unexpected. Nobody can guarantee what’s going to happen when that bell rings.”
ADRIEN BRONER: ‘DON’T STEREOTYPE ME…JUST ACCEPT ME’
Mitchell-Banks is the co-feature to a main event featuring WBC lightweight beltholder Antonio DeMarco (28-2-1, 21 KOs) against former WBO junior lightweight beltholder Adrien Broner (24-0, 20 KOs), the latter of whom made an uplifting visit with Mitchell on Wednesday afternoon to one of several area Atlantic City Boys and Girls Clubs that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
“It was pretty fun. I love kids. Just to see them being so energetic and happy that I was around was overwhelming. I’m definitely a grown man, and I take care of all of my responsibilities, but I still act like a kid and I love to have fun. I’ll do anything just to make their day better and to put a smile on their face,” said Broner, who had many of the children dancing.
“I wanted to let them forget for the moment what they’re going through. We had some fun dancing, shooting some basketball. They did understand that I was a famous boxer, but that wasn’t what I was trying to get them to understand. I just wanted them to have fun. It was more of, ‘let’s go out of here and pick up some trash,’ and make it a field day. I’m like, ‘let’s just have a lot of noise and have fun.’”
“I mean, once somebody sees me on television, they always think, ‘oh, he’s just a cocky brat,’ but I’m not. Once you get to sit really down and really be with Adrien Broner, man, you will fall in love with Adrien Broner,” said Broner.
“That’s what I want the world to do. I don’t want the world to dislike me in no type of way. Don’t stereotype me in no type of way. Just accept me.”
BRONER CALLS DEMARCO HIS ‘FLOYD MAYWEATHER-DIEGO CORRALES’
“I just feel like there is nobody in this game that can beat me,” said Broner, who has been compared, stylistically, to Floyd Mayweather. “You never know how you’re going to win, but I know I’m going to be victorious.”
Mayweather’s most defining fight may have been a 10th-round knockout in a clash of unbeatens during which he floored Diego Corrales five times in January of 2001, and Broner believes he could have as definitive a moment against DeMarco as Mayweather did opposite Corrales.
“At the time of that fight, Floyd was going up to what was supposed to have been a bigger puncher, and that’s a lot similar to how this fight is. But it’s going to be a helluva fight, except I’m going to make it look as easy as possible. I’m going to be mentally and physically stronger. I’m a special guy, I understand that,” said Broner.
“You have people who know that they have the talent, but sometimes they get scared when the success is in their face. I’m not afraid. I’m ready to go to the next level. DeMarco is a champion, and he has the talent to bring something out of Adrien Broner that the world hasn’t seen yet. But then again, I’m Adrien Broner, and the things that I do, and the way that I do them will kind of downplay a fighter.”
GARY SHAW: BRONER’S ‘IN THE FIGHT OF HIS LIFE’ AGAINST DEMARCO
Nicknamed “The Problem,” Broner has scored four consecutive stoppage victories since winning a unanimous decision over current WBC featherweight beltholder Daniel Ponce de Leon, a southpaw, in March of last year, and doesn’t believe DeMarco’s left-handed stance will be an issue.
DeMarco’s promoter, Gary Shaw, believes that Broner is wrong about DeMarco, who is coming off last month’s 44-second knockout of John Molina, which represented his fifth straight win and his fourth by stoppage during that run.
“Broner may be the Superman athlete that everyone claims him to be, and nothing affects him. But I think that he’s in for the fight of his life,” said Shaw.
“If he had trouble with Ponce de Leon, then he’s going to have real problems on Saturday night against DeMarco. DeMarco said it best: He may be ‘The Problem,’ but he’s got the solution.”
BUT CAN DEMARCO MAKE BRONER STAND AND FIGHT?
Broner’s last two fights in his hometown of Cincinnati, at U.S. Bank Arena, were knockouts in the third and fifth rounds over Vicente Martin Rodriguez in November and Escobedo. In between was a fourth-round stoppage of Eloy Perez in February.
“Just because I haven’t had to [stand and fight,] doesn’t mean that I can’t do it. I just feel like nobody has taken me there. You haven’t seen half of what Adrien Broner can do. You haven’t seen me in the gym,” said Broner, who is trained by Mike Stafford.
“To be honest, I’ve probably been touched more times in the gym than I’ve been touched in a fight. All of my fights put together as a professional. That’s where my fights are won, in the gym. I put in very hard work and I look at fight time as a celebration. Have fun. All of the hard work is over.”
The object, said Broner, is to hit and not get it.
“Who can be mad at me if I come out of my career not being touched? No wear and tear, no scars. No bumps or bruises? Who can get mad at me? I’m not in this game to let somebody hit me, and then try to hit them back. Every fight is one punch away from a knockout. Forget the tough man contest, and forget the guy who wants to show that he will sit there and get bloody and cut up,” said Broner.
“That’s stupid. I can’t go home to my kids like that. As an elite boxer, every man, inside of his mind knows that there is going to have to be a time where you have to dig and sit down on some shots and let the guy know that ‘okay,you’re going to have to stop f–king coming at me like this.’ So I’m going to touch you up and let you know that this ain’t want you want. I just haven’t had that time to do that.”
Will it happen on Saturday?
“Who knows? Once that bell rings, I’ll make my adjustments,” said Broner. “Usually once I make a couple of adjustments, the fight’s over.”
QUOTABLE: BRONER’S MESSAGE TO HIS CRITICS
“Critics are like butt holes: Everybody’s got one,” said Broner. “If I really just wanted to hear a butthole, I’ll pass gas.”
OFFICIALS CHOSEN FOR BRONER-DEMARCO
The Broner-DeMarco officials are referee Benjy Esteves, with judges Alejandro Rochin, Steven Weisfeld and John Stewart.
GILBERTO RAMIREZ, MARCO ANTONIO PERIBAN FIGHT SEPARATE BOUTS SATURDAY
Power puncher Gilberto Ramirez (23-0, 19 KOs), a 21-year-old middleweight from Mazatlan, Mexico, will take on Florida’s Marcus Upshaw (14-7-2, 6 KOs) on Saturday night on Televisa and FOX Deportes in the United States from El Teatro del Pueblo in Puebla, Mexico.
Promoted by Golden Boy and Canelo Promotions, the show will also feature Mexican super middleweight Marco Antonio Periban (18-0, 12 KOs) against countryman Franciso “Panchito” Sierra (25-6-1, 22 KOs).
MIGUEL COTTO-AUSTIN TROUT ALL-ACCESS DEBUTS FRIDAY
Showtime’s intimate documentary All Access: Cotto vs. Trout will debut on Friday, giving viewers a look into the lives of junior middleweight contender Austin Trout and four-time, three-division titlewinner Miguel Cotto in advance of their network-televised clash on Dec. 1 from New York’s Madison Square Garden.
The first of two episodes of All Access will air on Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT, as Trout (25-0, 14 knockouts) prepares to take on Cotto (37-2, 30 KOs) in New York, where the Puerto Rican challenger has never lost and is an overwhelming favorite among local fans.
JOEY HERNANDEZ, JAMES WINCHESTER TUSSEL AT WEIGH-IN
Middleweights Joey “Twinkle Fingers” Hernandez and James “Shotgun” Winchester got into a shoving match at Thursday’s weigh-in for Friday night’s clash at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.
Aftter weighing in at 156 and 155 3/4, respectively, tempers flared between Hernandez (22-1-1, 13 KOs) and Winchester (15-5, 5 KOs), the latter of whom had called Hernandez “Twinkle Toes” during an interview on Wednesday.
Promoted by Don King, The ShoBox: The New Generation card will be headlined by Miami lightweight Angelo Santana (13-0, 10 KOs), a 24-year-old southpaw from Cuba who will be after his seventh consecutive knockout victory against Juan “Johnny” Garcia (13-0, 8 KOs).
Garcia weighed 133 3/4, while Santana was 1 3/4 over and given two hours to make weight.
SERGEY KOVALEV TO MEET GABRIEL CAMPILLO ON JAN. 19.
Russian light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev (19-0-1, 17 KOs), of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., who is 7-0-1, with seven stoppage victories in his past eight fights, will meet southpaw contender Gabriel Campillo (21-4-1, 8 KOs), of Madrid, Spain, on Jan. 19 on NBC Sports Network’s popular “Fight Night” series.
In his last fight in February, Campillo lost a controversial Showtime-televised split-decision to IBF beltholder Tavoris Cloud.
Photo by Tom Briglia, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Photos by Tom Casino, Showtime
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org