Commentary

No love lost between rivals Smith, Banks

Paul Smith took David Banks to the cleaners by earning a split decision on the sixth episode of "The Contender."

Originally Published: October 10, 2007
By Michael Woods | Special to ESPN.com

He's not exactly steaming, but the result still stings.

David Banks exited "The Contender" last night, at the slightly more educated hands of undefeated Brit Paul Smith, and the Oregon-based hitter is ready to toss some jabs at the judges.

"I definitely don't agree with the decision," he told ESPN.com.

"Whoever watches can agree with me. I landed more shots. The fourth round is the only round he won. I was quicker, 10 times faster than he was."

There was no love lost, or found, between the 24-year-old Banks, who wasn't afraid to advertise his physical attributes in the Contender crib, and the 25-year-old Smith, a salt of the earth sort from Liverpool, England, who turned up his nose at Banks' prancing.

"You can tell by Smith's expression when the judges cards were announced," Banks says. "He thought I won the fight."

That face-reading contention is debatable, and anyone desiring to see the fight in its entirety is encouraged to tune in to ESPN2's "The Contender Uncut" at 12:30 ET on Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

"[Jaidon] Codrington and [Sam] Solimon said I won," Banks maintains. "America will realize who won the fight."

Sour ending aside, Banks treasures the experience he gleaned on the show. First, even appearing on the program brings him a measure of satisfaction.

It's not out of the realm of possibility that Banks could've been one of those testosterone-heavy sorts who slipped between the cracks, and invariably chose the wrong path in life when choices beckoned.

Banks' father was shot and killed by one of his best friends when Banks' mom was pregnant with him.

The youth lived in Las Vegas until he was 16, but was ramping up his bad behavior, so his mom sent him to Oregon to live with an aunt, and followed him there soon after.

Trouble followed Banks, though, and he was in the court system following a physical altercation on the street. A parole officer thought it would serve the young man, then 21, to channel his fighting instinct, so he sent Banks to a boxing gym. The anger management move worked. "I fell in love with it," he says. "It's been absolutely life changing."

Banks is getting hitched next year, to fiancee Allysia Williams, and he's focused on making up ground in the fight game for their three-year-old son, David Banks III. The fighter didn't engage in as much as one amateur bout, but skipped right to the pro ranks when he realized that working as a greeter at a local Jiffy Lube wasn't going to move his family to the head of the line economically.

The fast-forward process bore some fruit, as Banks got a reputation as an upset specialist, when he bettered 16-0 Elvin Ayala in November 2006. In June, he snagged a date with "Contender" alum Peter Manfredo, but dropped a 10-round decision. When the "Contender" slot arrived, Banks grabbed it, figuring he could fast-track his level of expertise with the heavy immersion tournament. Thing is, he also gained an education in inter-personal relationships along the way.

Viewers saw Banks prancing about and preening with a Chippendale's level of modesty. The Oregon resident admits that he played up the antics as a strategy, but that is also part of his personality.

"I like to ruffle feathers," he says. "My mother raised me by telling me how beautiful I am, that I can do anything. There was a lot of conflict in the house. I got on people's nerves; I was a playboy so I can't blame them, or Paul."

The antics aren't simply utilized to throw a potential foe off guard, though. Banks, growing up without a dad, didn't let people get close to him. After all, Banks' dad was killed by one of his best buddies.

"I let no one in," he recalls. "I had a big trust issue, who I let in, who I let get close. That's why I come off arrogant, it chills people coming in, so they don't get too close."

Banks' hasn't been able to learn much about his dad because his mom still tears up when she's asked about David Banks I. "I'm my mom's everything," he says, giving a hint at the pressures that put weight on his shoulders. "I carry his name."

Banks did indeed throw Smith, a more polished pro, off with his behavior. The Brit neglected his jab and body work, during the bout, in order to try and knock Banks' block off.

"Smith came out with a very aggressive attitude, and it was more than just a fight," he says. "Smith let it get personal."

In the first round, after Banks bumped Smith during the staredown, a crisp pace was set. Banks found a home for his right to the body and Smith scored with a right at close quarters. To get a better sense of who took it, again, we'll have to watch the entire fight.

In the second, Smith landed a lead right, which he did on multiple occasions. A Banks counter right wobbled Smith, though.

In the third, Smith looked more effective, with his right landing over Banks' low left.

In the fourth round, a Smith left hook to the chin hurt Banks, who was swaying on tequila legs. Banks then landed a hurtful righthand shot which had trainer Buddy McGirt yelling, "He's hurt, David!" Tellingly, though, Buddy told Banks he needed the last round.

The fifth and final round showed Smith serving notice to the judges that he wanted the fight more, as he came forward more than Banks. The two swapped toe-to-toe at the close, and hugged after the bell closed the show.

Then, the judges spoke: Max DeLuca had it 49-46, Banks, but was outvoted by Raul Caiz and Fritz Werner, who both scored for the Brit, 48-47.

Smith told the camera that he did respect Banks, as a family man: "I won't go as far as to say we'll send each other Christmas cards, but I've got nothing against him."

Banks says that Smith reached out afterwards, and admitted that his verbal sparring was played up for TV. "He told me I'm a fighter, and I told him he was too. But it's not over. I don't think he can feel comfortable with that win. He has to realize there's no way he won. Hopefully he won't be able to sleep at night."

In a mini-swerve at the close of the show, viewers learned that the win wasn't the be-all, end-all for Smith. There are only four slots in next week's semifinals, and because the four remaining boxers (Sakio Bika, Codrington, Wayne Johnsen, Solimon) accumulated more points in the power rankings, Smith, too, got the boot. Two cuts sustained during the fight with Banks would've DQ'd him, anyway.

Both men will have ample time to mull over the match, and may well lose some sleep over it.

Michael Woods, the news editor for TheSweetScience.com, has written for ESPN The Magazine, GQ and The New York Observer.

Michael Woods, a member of the board of the Boxing Writers Association of America, has been covering boxing since 1991. He writes about boxing for ESPN The Magazine and is the news editor for TheSweetScience.com.

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