Jump to content

Paul Banke-The Real


Recommended Posts

Paul Banke is one of those cases in boxing history: nobody or very few remember his name today but for a while he was the world champion and one of the best fighters in his division. He captured and briefly held the WBC super bantam title after becoming the first man to stop Daniel Zaragoza, one of the best super bantams ever. His time at the top would be brief but memorable. Banke was a come forward fighter who was there to fight and slug it out and for this reason he was beloved in his fighting days. He was a pressure fighter but could also box when needed. One writer called him a "Mini Tyson" because of his ferocity. His life however took a dramatic turn as he was diagnosed with HIV 2 years after retiring from the ring.


Born Paul Andre Banke 1 March 1964 in Riverside, Los Angeles, Banke started boxing at 12 years of age and soon became one of the most promising amateurs in Southland. After failing to make the 1984 Olympic team, he turned pro in 1985. He lost a couple fights on points early on, to then-undefeated Pete Solarez and Andre Smith. He beat the future IBF featherweight champion Hector Lizarraga on points in July 1987 but then lost to Jesus Poll in a fight for the California State featherweight title after being knocked down three times and stopped in round 7. In 1988 he participated in the Stroh's super bantamweight tournament, first knocking out Alberto Mercado in 3, then decisioning Robert Shannon and finally stopping Carlos Romero by TKO 11 to win the tournament and 75,000 dollars. In January 1989 he also won the WBA Americas 122-pound title after stopping Ramiro Adames by TKO 6. He then for the first time fought against the WBC champion, the technically clever Daniel Zaragoza of Mexico, on 22 June 1989 at Great Western Forum in Inglewood. The fight was a slugfest from start to finish and most people in the audience had Banke winning in the end. However, two of the judges gave the fight to the champion instead while the third scored it for Banke. After two victories, he got another chance against Zaragoza 23 April 1990, again at the same arena. This time Banke was determined not to leave it to the judges and took the fight to Zaragoza from the start. He was the better man for most of the first 6 rounds while Zaragoza came back and won the next two. Both men were cut over the eye, but Zaragoza's cut was worse and his right eye was both swollen and badly bleeding. In the 9th round, Banke went in for the kill and hurt Zaragoza before dropping him with a left hook as Zaragoza was against the ropes. Zaragoza beat the count and continued to slug but another big left hook put him down again and this time he was unable to beat the count. The great underdog had done what seemed impossible: he stopped the great champion and technician!


For his first defense, he had to go to South Korea as he was fighting one of their fighters and they were known for their reluctance to travel and fight abroad. Ki-Joon Lee was 14-0 and had a couple decent wins on his resume. The fight was again fast paced and rather even. Banke was ahead on one of the scorecards by two points, one had Lee ahead by one point and the third was even going into the 12th and last round, when Banke, having already had Lee down in the previous round, put Lee down twice to win by TKO. He now looked like he was going somewhere, on the road to becoming the big fighter in the division. However, according to his manager, Paul loved partying and it became his undoing. He lost his title in his second defense against Argentinian puncher Pedro Decima on 5 November 1990, who put him down three times in round 4 to end the fight there. Banke then took almost a year off from boxing before returning in October next year and beating Antonio Ramirez by UD10. He then signed to fight Zaragoza for the third time and the fight happened 9 December that year, again at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood. This time, Zaragoza was more dominant and won by a clear unanimous decision in the end. Banke then fought Kennedy McKinney on 20 March next year and was down in rounds 2 and 6 before retiring after the 6th in his corner. It was clear he just wasn't the same fighter anymore. After losing to two far inferior fighters, the aforementioned Antonio Ramirez and Juan Francisco Soto (who was 0-8-0 at the time of their fight), both on points, Banke realized it was time to retire. He was only 29 and left behind a record of 21 wins, 11 by ko and 9 losses, 3 by ko.


Sadly, it soon turned out there was a reason for his poor performances in the ring as he was diagnosed with HIV in 1995. To make matters worse, he slid into drug abuse and started living like a bum. He miraculously stayed alive despite all that and in 2005 he sobered up. He is now living alone after divorcing but has lived to become a grandfather and he has three children as well as three grandchildren. Paul Banke was a capable and talented fighter who for a brief time shone in a strong division. He had it all except one thing: discipline. Had he been more disciplined, he could have probably gone on to make many defenses and would become a true star.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...