By: Barry Barnes, Founder/Senior Writer
Boxing is a patience sport. Instead of strength and conditioning, power and speed, boxing involves timing and strategic – in wait of that solid blow. Normally, depending on one’s natural talents, developing the skills to become a great boxing would take years. Apparently, heavyweight boxer Seth Mitchell did not receive a memo, text, email, voicemail or a message in bottle about the know how’s of becoming a great boxer.
Just six and a half years in the ring, Mitchell has quickly become a major heavyweight on the national scene, and is ready to take the next step to greatness.
“A lot of people forget that I’ve been boxing for six and a half years,” said Mitchell in a one on one conversation. “I’m just a baby in boxing and I’ve been fighting people who his 15, 16 years of experience, and I’m just getting started.”
Mitchell is literally a world-class athlete. The Maryland native played both football and basketball in high school. He was decent in basketball, but to get an idea on how good of a football player Mitchell was, the former linebacker was named by the USA Today as Maryland’s Defensive Player of the Year. After receiving dozens of Division I scholarship offers, Mitchell decided to play for Michigan State University and was off to a solid collegiate career, with the NFL in sight.
Unfortunately, in 2005, Mitchell had to walk away from the game of football due to sustaining major cartilage damage in his knee.
But was the former linebacker unfortunate?
After witnessing a former Notre Dame opponent from the gridiron succeed at boxing in Tom Zbikowski, who is a safety for the Chicago Bears, the competitiveness juices in the world-class athlete arose, electing him to put on another set of gloves and shoes.
In terms of preparation, being at a certain fit and patience, football and boxing has its similarities. Nevertheless, football is the ultimate team sport; where individuals can pull on others, while a boxer is their own entity.
“One of the biggest things is when you have a team, you can train and fight together, but once you get into that ring, it’s all you,” said Mitchell. “You can train properly and you can do all the right things, but once you get into the ring, it only takes one mistake…it’s just you one-on-one against an opponent and it’s over.
“In football, if you mess up on a play, you have someone on the team who has your back,” he continued. “They will cover you so you won’t be exposed. That’s the main thing that is different when you go from a team sport to an individual sport. On the flipside, you are not creating yourself in an individual sport, whereas on a team sport, especially football, ten other people could be doing everything right as a professional and you have that one person who’s not and that could cost you the game.”
Mitchell’s details on team and individual sports were obvious, but what was interesting were his personal feelings between game day and show time.
“The mental aspect of boxing is totally different from football,” said Mitchell with laughter. “I don’t get the same feelings I get before I walk into a ring, compared to going on a football field. Even though they (nervous feelings) sided a lot more now from the feelings I first got when I started (boxing), I never got those in football games and big football games. The feelings I got from football were more of excitement, couldn’t wait to get out there and play. Boxing was more nerve wrecking (laughter).”
While Mitchell performed with wrecked nerves, he has been wrecking his opponents’ nerves since he started his boxing career in 2006. After 27 contests, Mitchell has a 25-1-1 record.
Transitioning from one sport to another is not easy as only a hand full of great athletes were able to do so like Bo Jackson (baseball and football), Antonio Gates (from basketball to football), Brian Jordan (football and baseball), and Hall of Famer Deion Sanders (baseball and football) to name a few. Mitchell has successful joined this select crew, and when asked has boxing slowed down for him since he first started, he stated it comes with the territory.
“It definitely has slowed down for me, and that comes with the territory, but I’m still learning at the same time,” said Mitchell, humbly. “I’ve been fortunate enough to reach a high level in the sport and I understand that I have to win and learn at the same time. The more and more you get into the ring, you relax more and you see things better.
“I never played baseball, but I’ve heard hitters say that when a ball comes 100 miles per hour, it looks like an under handed pitch,” he continued. “It just slows down to them after they have countless repetitions at it.”
Winning consistently on the professional level in sports is not easy, and Mitchell has been humbled by his early success. Furthermore, what was more impressive was how he handled his first lose.
Last November in Atlantic City, Mitchell experienced his first lose as a professional heavyweight boxer. Mitchell was defeated by TKO in the second round to Johnathon Banks. In that bout, Mitchell was knocked down three times.
Based on the average time lengths between bouts, Mitchell was in the ring within 2.2 months. Between his victory over Chazz Witherspoon on April 28, 2012, where Mitchell captured the vacant NABO (North American Boxing Organization) Heavyweight Title, the Maryland native stepped into the ring against Banks seven month later, the longest duration between fights in his career.
It was thought that the length of time between bouts disrupted Mitchell’s flow. If Mitchell would have competed against Banks on the original date of July 14, 2012 in Las Vegas, he would have been on his normal performance schedule. Due to Mitchell’s injured hand, the fight was postponed. The Mitchell and Banks’ bout was rescheduled three times before they actually fought.
Nevertheless, the competitive, championship nature of Mitchell never allowed himself to accept any excuse. He used the loss to get smarter, and embraced his previous outcome.
“I have not trained harder, I’ve been training smarter,” said Mitchell. “Everything happens for a reason. I believe that (loss)was something that needed to happen. I never underestimate any of my opponents. So, it wasn’t the fact that I didn’t take him seriously. I did some things wrong and we have been working on the things I did wrong and just work to get better, sticking to the basis.
“Everything happens for a reason and I’m not into making excuses,” he added. “My coach tells me, ‘excuses confuse confidence with incompetence, which builds monuments of nothingness and people who specializes in using them (excuses) are seldom good in anything else.’ That’s what I live by. I was healed; I was 100 percent healthy, what happened just happened. I was ready to go, you know what I mean.
“Banks did what he was supposed to do, and we are just going to see if he can do it (win) again,” he continued. “Mentally and physically, I was ready for the fight. I just didn’t go out there and performed the way I know I can perform.”
Mitchell is focus and ready to avenge his last outing against Banks on June 22 at Madison Square Garden in New York, which will be a televised on Showtime.
With all sincerity, Mitchell is eyeing the high price to become the next American Heavyweight Champion of the World. Wladimir Klitschko, 37, is the current world champion, as he own four of the five belts among boxing’s sanctioning bodies (WBA – Super, IBF, WBO and IBO). Klitschko’s older brother, Vitali, 41, owns the other belt (WBC).
The heavyweight division has no relevance in America, and the sport of boxing is taking a major national hit because the heavyweight title is not in the hands of an American. Whenever the heavyweight title is bought back to the states, the sport of boxing will be back on the map. And like the many American heavyweight boxers, the young fighter dreams of the opportunity.
Nonetheless, he must be successful against Banks, first.
“It’s would be madness (being the champ). Ah man, I think about it a lot…I definitely want to get my opportunity, get my crack at it (heavyweight title),” said Mitchell. “God has blessed me with the tools. I got good size, I’m 6-2, but I walk around in 255, I’m a solid 240 some pound heavyweight. I got power in both hands, I got speed, but I have to put it all together, which have been the things we’ve been working on.
“But the first thing is June 22nd against Johnathon Banks,” he continued. “Once I take care of him, I think doors will open for me.”
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