- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Heavyweight contender Johnathon Banks was getting ready to face Seth Mitchell in a rematch on Feb. 16 when he broke his right thumb in a sparring session two weeks before the fight.
Ultimately, Banks had to postpone the bout, but he had to be convinced to do so by none other than heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, whom Banks also trains, taking over that role following the death of his mentor Emanuel Steward last fall. Klitschko's K2 Promotions also serves as Banks' promoter.
Believe it or not, Banks was ready to go through with the fight despite a significant injury. That's his fighter's mentality.
"Actually, I was going to fight with a broken thumb because I wanted to fight," Banks said. "You're spending your money [for training camp], preparing for a fight and then you call the fight off. I don't like doing that, and I was going to go through with the fight. Wladimir Klitschko called me and asked me not to go through with the fight. He said, 'Dude, you broke your thumb. Why would you take the risk going to a fight handicapped?'
"I wasn't thinking with my mind. I'm thinking with my heart because I just wanted to fight. That's just me. I'm saying regardless, I want to fight. So, I sat down, thought about it and it was bandaged up, I couldn't use it."
The first time Banks and Mitchell met was in November. Banks was a prohibitive underdog but dropped Mitchell three times in the second round for the upset stoppage victory that sent Banks' stock soaring and the heavily hyped Mitchell's plummeting.
But Mitchell had a rematch option and exercised it, setting up the sequel that was rescheduled and will take place Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/6 PT) on the undercard of welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi's defense against lightweight titleholder Adrien Broner at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Before Banks (29-1-1, 19 KOs) -- who said he had never broken a bone before -- came to his senses about his injured thumb, he said that he could finish training using only his left hand and still face Mitchell (25-1-1, 19 KOs) as scheduled.
"I listened to what [Klitschko] said and that's why I went on and called off the fight," Banks said. "I didn't want to do it because, I mean, no fighter likes to be hearing about this a week or a week and a half, two weeks before the fight.
"I'm a fighter. I just want to fight. So, I figured if I could walk, if I could talk, if I could throw it. I said let's fight, but like I say, he talked to me. That's why you surround yourself with people that are knowledgeable about the game, so when you're not thinking knowledgeable, they can bring you back to reality."
Banks, who said his thumb is fine now, knows that he made the right decision.
"I definitely made the right decision because, as I said once that night, once I sat and thought about it and I said you know what, he's right, why will I go into fight handicap because I don't like to say, 'OK, Johnathon Banks, you lost the second fight, what happened?'" Banks said. "I said well, you know, I don't know. I want to be 100 percent. If I lose, let me lose at 100 percent. I can live with that, losing at 100 percent, but I can't live with being halfway ready and then I lose. I don't want anything like that to happen."
K2 Promoter Tom Loeffler was happy that Banks made the decision to postpone the fight.
"I naturally agreed with Wladimir," Loeffler said. "In a fight like this, at this caliber and with so much at stake, it just doesn't make sense to go into it [injured]. Every fighter is never really 100 percent after sparring and little nicks and bruises and things like that, but to have a broken thumb and to go into a fight like this just wouldn't really have made sense, although it did take a little while to convince Johnathon of that, I know that."