Joe Santoliquito

Q&A: Banks heard Steward’s voice say ‘be first’ against Mitchell

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – Moments after Saturday night’s HBO-televised upset second-round knockout over previously undefeated Seth “Mayhem” MitchellJohnathon Banks spoke to in a distant corner of Boardwalk Hall.

Banks (29-1-1, 19 knockouts) scored three knockdowns in the final round against Mitchell (25-1-1, 19 KOs), ending a winning streak that had covered 23 consecutive bouts and which had included 18 knockouts.

For Banks, the triumph culminated an emotional past few weeks marked by the death of training mentor Emanuel “Manny” Steward, a Hall of Famer who died on Oct. 25 at the age of 68.

Banks attended the Wednesday funeral for Steward, who, prior to his death, charged him with training RING IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko for his unanimous-decision victory over Mariusz Wach on Nov. 10 after having guided Klitschko through a 16-fight winning streak.

Mitchell was coming off his ninth and 10th consecutive knockout victories over Timur Ibragimov and Chazz Witherspoon in December of last year and April, respectively.

Against Witherspoon, also at Boardwalk Hall, Mitchell escaped a treacherous first round during which he was rocked by his opponent. But when Banks hurt Mitchell, he was determined not to let his rival off the hook.

Banks spoke of his tremendous accomplishment in this Q&A below.


RingTV: What was this like for you?

Johnathon Banks: It was really emotional. A lot of people didn’t think I could win this fight, My mom is crying, she was really emotional. This time last week, I was working Wladimir Klitschko’s corner this time last week in Hamburg, Germany.

I heard Emanuel’s voice every second, same as last week in Hamburg, I heard his voice last week. Emanuel introduced me to all of this. I can’t help but to hear his voice.

RingTV: How old were you when you first walked into Kronk?

JB: I was 15 when I first walked into Kronk. When I first saw Emanuel, I remember I first walked up to him to say something and just kept walking (laughs.) The next time I saw him, I was in the ring sparring. Emanuel stopped the sparring and said, ‘Come over here for a minute.’

He told me what to do, ‘”Put the right here, put the left hand here,” and then sent me back out to do it. I did it and I dropped the guy, and Emanuel turned around and said, “See.”

RingTV: How tough was this night for you?

JB: It was very tough. We were all representing Emanuel and keeping the Kronk legacy alive. We all had to keep our emotions bottled up until after the fight. It wasn’t easy. But myself, my trainer, Sugar Hill, we had a job to do.

RingTV: What did you hurt Mitchell with?

JB: I hit him with a right hand. I was shocked that I hurt him. I didn’t think it hurt him because he was ducking under. I saw his feet wobble, and I was trying to do what Witherspoon didn’t do.

I wanted to keep touching him, keep touching him. He was hurt real bad the first time. I wanted the fight to continue. I wanted to stretch him out.

RingTV: Were you thinking of Emanuel?

JB: I was thinking of Emanuel all through the fight. I wouldn’t be where I am, right here, and in Hamburg, Germany, thanks to him. I’m showing my appreciation by working hard so I can continue in his name. I can still hear his words, “You can’t win unless you let your hands go. Be first. Be in control.”

Photos by Naoki Fukuda

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