Team Oquendo Nixes Banks Fight in Poland; Issues a Counter-Offer to Meet in Chicago

by Pavel Yakovlev: (September 4, 2011) - Next week’s bout between Johnathon Banks and Fres Oquendo is cancelled. The fight, scheduled for the undercard of WBC heavyweight champ Vitali Klitschko’s title defense against Tomasz Adamek in Wroclaw, Poland, has been rejected by Oquendo’s camp. Tom Tsatas, Oquendo’s manager, explained, “The circumstances weren’t right. We appreciate the offer to fight Banks, but we weren’t comfortable with certain things about the fight.”

Interestingly, Tsatas issued a counter-offer for Banks to meet Oquendo in the United States. “I will offer Johnathon Banks the same amount of money – the equivalent of what they offered us for the Poland match – for him to fight Fres in Chicago,” said Tsatas. “They gave us a gift by offering Fres this fight, and we appreciate it. We would like to return the gift by offering Banks the same amount to fight here. In fact, if Fres does not knock out Banks in Chicago, I will double Banks’s purse. I am willing to put the money in escrow before the fight.”

The chance to fight Banks, who is rated WBC #5 and IBF #10, was offered to Oquendo two weeks ago. Oquendo has spent the past month sparring with Vitali Klitschko at the latter’s training camp in Austria, and Banks is a long-term sparring partner for Vitali and his brother, IBF and WBO champion Wladimir. But Banks is handled by K2 Promotions, one of the promoters of the Wroclaw event. Thus, Oquendo and his team were leery of fighting as “the opponent” under circumstances controlled by Banks’s handlers.

For Oquendo, the upside to the Banks fight was considerable, and the decision to reject the match was made only after careful deliberation. The bout appeared entirely winnable for the Puerto Rican slickster. He is every bit as quick as Banks, possesses a better defense, and exhibits superior footwork. Also, Banks is vulnerable to right-lead leads to the head, and one of Oquendo’s most dangerous weapons is his fast and crackling overhand right. Winning the bout would have yielded big rewards. By beating Banks, who holds the NABF title, Oquendo could have regained his place in the world world-ratings, a position he forfeited last year when he dropped a highly controversial decision Jean Marc Mormeck in the latter’s hometown of Paris.

Ultimately, however, logic outweighed temptation in determining Oquendo’s decision. Tsatas explained, “We didn’t have a lot of time to make a decision here. Generally these fights get worked out months in advance. We didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to fight Banks, and I think Fres would knock him out. But the big issues for us were not having the proper training camp, and me not being there in Europe to help him prepare. For a fight like this, Fres usually has about 100 rounds of sparring, and that wasn’t even close to happening this time. Fres was in Austria primarily to help Vitali, and he wasn’t training for his own fight. After careful consideration, we decided that the circumstances weren’t right. We had to think logically about this.”

Another problem for Team Oquendo was the bout’s length: only ten rounds. “We wanted it to be for 12 rounds, but that wasn’t a possibility. Banks’s title was on the line, but it was only scheduled for ten, which we didn’t like,” said Tsatas.

“There’s no reason for two guys from the American Midwest to be fighting in Poland,” continued Tsatas. “These two should fight in Chicago. I think Fres probably knocks him out. I don’t think Banks can hold a candle to Fres. We’d love to get this fight set-up in Chicago.”

Given Oquendo’s history of losing controversial decisions on cards staged by his opponents’ promoters, he and his team can hardly be faulted for rejecting the bout. The possibility of Oquendo losing a “home arena” decision to Banks was not overlooked by experts. Evan Young, handicapper at, for one, raised this possibility last week while analyzing the bout.

According to Young, "Fres Oquendo has excellent experience and even though he is a hard luck fighter, with many questionable decisions against him, no one has ever run right through him. He's athletic and awkward and if he's there physically, even in his late 30's, he will certainly not be overwhelmed by Johnathan Banks. Banks is a decent fighter, with perhaps some vulnerabilities - i.e. chin, stamina. He wasn't awe inspiring with a draw against journeyman Jason Gavern a few fights ago. Knowing Oquendo's history, it will probably be another close and perhaps controversial bout, but one he is capable of winning, provided he is well prepared."

Article posted on 05.09.2011

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