Do you believe in destiny or fate? Are some people born to do certain things and follow a certain path? Whether they know it or not, some people’s destiny are predetermined. Their is no better case of this than Jonathan Banks.
He’s a professional boxer, former IBO Cruiserweight Champion, and trainer of Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko. He’s had a nice career himself, with a record of 29-3-1, but he started training Wladmir in 2012, which has been one of his main focuses.
When Jonathan was two years old, his grandfather, who was a pastor, told him that he become a professional fighter one day. 21 years later, at the age of 23, Jonathan became a professional boxer.
Leading up to Klitschko’s April title defense against Bryant Jennings, we chopped it up with Banks about training a champion, what it was like working with the late Emanuel Steward, and why Wladimir picked him as a trainer.
I know you are from Michigan, so you must be a fan of hip-hop then?
Detroit, born and raised. Of course, Eminem is my favorite when I go through the list of hip-hop artists.
Have you ever had any interactions with Eminem?
I met him because my late manager and mentor Emanuel Steward trained Eminem. I met Eminem on the set of 8 Mile, because I was also part of the security team for the film. I was doing private security at the time, so I was on set a lot.
Did Emanuel train Eminem for 8 Mile?
No, Eminem just wanted to learn how to box, so he reached out to my mentor.
I was reading your story and it’s really interesting. You are only 32 years old, had your own successful boxing career, and now you are training heavyweight champion Vladimir Klitschko. How is that working out?
When people saw that he picked me, they were surprised. I think especially because I am so young, but it’s been working out great. A lot of people had doubts about my abilities to train him because how young I am.
I am guessing he’s older than you right?
He’s about to be 39 next month and I am 32.
That makes the situation even crazier, because you are so much younger than him. He must respect you a lot to hand pick you.
We’ve been working together since 2004 and he knew I was trained by Emanuel Steward. I just turned pro and I was 1-0 and I was going to prepare for my second fight and I met with Emanuel in Los Angeles, where he was training Klitschko and that’s when we met.
How long have you officially been Klitschko’s trainer?
We started in 2012 when Emanuel passed away and Klitschko asked me to be his trainer.
Let’s talk about the fight.
Vladimir Klitschko defended his title versus Bryant Jennings on April 25th at Madison Square Garden in New York.
I am a casual fan ever since the heavyweight days with Tyson/Holyfield/Lewis days. We see the other weight classes are more popular today. What do you think it will take for the heavyweight division to come back into the mainstream?
I think it already is mainstream; it’s all over TV and the Internet now more than ever. It’s on a lot of networks right now.
I should rephrase my question and say in America. It seems like the heavyweight division isn’t as big in America as it was in Tyson’s day.
Boxing hasn’t changed since forever. The only thing that has really changed is the publicity. The more household names you have, the harder the division is. Whoever has the biggest names, becomes the most popular. The middleweight division, lightweight and welterweights have the biggest names right now. Heavyweight today has some household names, but it’s getting even bigger. It’s coming back because of the publicity and it’s getting more household names.
Showboating, gloating, etc., has been around forever since Muhammad Ali. These new guys like Mayweather and Adrian Broner are a new age, new era of “swag” boxing. What do you think about this “swag” era?
A lot of these guys are just entertainers putting on for the camera. Which one is real and which one is doing it for show? Ali started the trash talking, but he never bragged about his money or his possessions. These guys think they need this persona because that’s what the fans want to think. I guess it’s all for the show, it makes it interesting to watch for sure. Me personally, that’s not my style, but that’s them and there is nothing wrong with it. Floyd has been doing it for years.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing, it helps the sport overall. I think you just have to be careful walking that line of entertainment/real life.
I agree, a lot of people go see Floyd because of his showmanship. I wanna see Floyd win, he’s a hell of a fighter and one of the best of all-time. I think he’s going to beat Pacquio.
For better or worse, every industry has been affected by the Internet. With technology today, everyone has a phone, tablet or a computer or a smart TV. Where do you see the future of boxing going?
Boxing is the one thing that will never change. Technology has changed everything, even the way the judges score the match. It’s harder today for guys to cheat, and now, they can go back and look at footage of a match. We have less bad decisions today than in the past because of technology. The judges don’t write the scores on paper anymore, it’s all digital.
We see HBO has their own app, you can get HBO without cable TV now. I wonder if we will ever see like a NETFLIX for boxing?
I think we will, and I am sure people are working on it right now. Each network is going to create their own app and broadcast fight. As long as boxing is on these different networks, more people can watch it. We have boxing on five networks right now and that’s the most in years and maybe ever.
I wanted to ask you about being a boxer, a champion and the training that goes with it. What do people like you or Ali or Klitschko have inside of them that makes them a champion? What do you all share?
Hardwork, hardwork, hardwork… sacrifice and dedication. You gotta set a goal and get to it.
What happens the next day after the contract is officially signed? What is like the first thing you do the next day as far as training with Klitschko?
First, we set up camp and figure out where we are going to train and when. It’s my job to make sure we have all the people that we need to help Klitschko.
I know boxing was instilled in you since you were young. Didn’t yout grandfather say one day you would be a great boxer when you were really young? Are you from a boxing family?
No, not at all.
So where did he get that from?
I don’t know, I don’t have any boxers in my family.
Have you ever put any thought behind why he said that?
He’s a pastor and he said the Lord told him that. My family didn’t tell me this until I was older and already boxing. He said it when I was two years old and I didn’t find out until I was 18. I got into boxing when I was 14 and became pro when I was 23.
Wow that makes it even crazier. You have an impressive record yourself: 29-3-1. Will you ever get back into the ring and are you going to train yourself? (Laughs)
(Laughs) Nah, I’m not going to train myself.
I am from Philly and Bernard Hopkins is a legend and a hero out here. He recently came out of retirement and fought at the age of 50 years old. How many more fights do you think Klitschko has in him?
Klitschko is showing no signs of slowing down. It’s hard to say because he’s not showing any signs of slowing down. He’s actually speeding up and it’s incredible.