Heavyweight Johnathon Banks said he’s in a “must-win fight” with former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver, against whom he will end a 15-month ring absence on Sept. 29 at the State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas.
Promoted by Mike Battah of Leija Battah Promotions and co-presented by Golden Boy Promotions, Tarver-Banks will air on FOX Sports 1 and mark the end of a 10-month ring absence for Tarver.
A native of Detroit, Banks (29-2-1, 19 knockouts), 32, split his past two bouts with Seth Mitchell. Banks stopped Mitchell in the second round in November 2012 but lost by unanimous decision in their June 2013 rematch.
“I lost the last fight to Seth Mitchell but that’s not the reason that I call this a must-win. I look at every fight as a must-win fight, The reason that I look at this as a must-win fight is because I don’t care how old the man is,” said Banks of Tarver, 45.
“I’m not even looking at it as being an age thing because any time you get another heavyweight in front of you, you have a dangerous guy in front of you, regardless of where they come from or which weight class they’re coming from. So I definitely look at this as a must-win fight.”
Banks insists his hands, fractured during his return bout with Mitchell, will not be a problem against Tarver.
“It was both of them. I hurt both of them in the first round of the last Seth Mitchell fight and my hands are healed,” said Banks. “I’m ready to fight and I’m very excited to get back into the ring. I’m just ready to start letting my hands go.”
Currently the trainer of RING heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, Banks was formerly advised and trained himself by the late Emanuel Steward, to whom he served as an assistant.
Banks will prepare Klitschko for his Nov. 15 defense against Kubrat Pulev, just as he did for Wladimir’s unanimous decision over Mariusz Wach on Nov. 10, 2012 – a fight that transpired seven days prior to Banks’ victory over Mitchell.
“A lot of people ask me how can I focus on my fights when I’m also trying to focus on Wladimir’s fight at the same time but they forget that the very first time that I was training him that we fought only a week apart. That was my first time ever training Wladimir all by myself. Like, I had helped out before but [the Wach fight] was the first time by myself,” said Banks.
“When you’re training an athlete who is the heavyweight champion of the world, you take over his camp and it’s just you. You’re training him and, yeah, that’s a good reason that fighters stop fighting and start training. It’s a tough job. No one has ever done it at the same time but when I first fought Seth Mitchell, I was able to make that transition. It didn’t have a negative effect on me in any type of way. That part right there was fine. I just made my adjustments and I was able to do whatever I needed to do.”
Banks was in attendance during a recent sparring session between Klitschko and 2012 British Olympic gold medalist Anthony Joshua.
“The funny thing is that I was just training Anthony Joshua in camp with Wladimir and I was giving him hand work and all of that stuff. I think that he’s a really good fighter, man, and he can fight,” said Banks.
“I like him. I like him a lot but as far as the heavyweights, in general, I want to fight whomever I need to fight. Just give me one of these guys. That’s all I want. I think they’ll fight me.”
However, Banks must first get beyond Tarver (30-6, 21 KOs). A resident of the Tampa Bay area, Tarver had his most recent fight last November when he scored a fourth round stoppage of Mike Sheppard that ended a 17-month ring absence.
Tarver had returned to the action for the first time since June 2012, when he tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid drostanolone following a draw-turned-no-contest against Lateef Kayode.
A 1996 Olympic bronze medalist, Tarver is best known for winning two of three bouts against Roy Jones Jr., including a second round stoppage victory in their second meeting.
Tarver had won two straight before facing Kayode, having scored a unanimous decision as a heavyweight against Nagy Aguilera in October 2010 and a ninth round stoppage of cruiserweight Danny Green in July of 2011.
Banks sees the clash with Tarver as a battle of skills, if not wills.
“It’s kind of hard for me to comment on any one specific thing that Tarver does well but to really get down to the basics of it, I also rely on my skill factor. Fingers crossed, I get no injuries in the fight. I rely on my skill factor and my punching power and my movement. I rely on everything. I don’t just depend on one thing,” said Banks.
“Because once you depend on that one thing, then you’re at a crossroads or a brick wall for relying on this one thing. So I just look at it as, no matter what, it’s just a fight. So I’m going to get in there and do what I do best and that’s rely on everything that I can. I’m going to do some boxing, some fighting or whatever I have to do at that time and go to whatever steps that I have to go through to win this fight.”