Fighter Prepares for Nov. 17 Bout
When Seth Mitchell takes the ring for his highly-anticipated bout against Johnathon Banks, the hard-hitting fighter will have faced the longest layoff of his six-year career. The two were originally slated to meet on July 14, but an injury to Mitchell's right hand forced both camps to cancel the fight.
Both sides then scrapped their Oct. 6 rematch after scheduling issues between the card's other boxers arose. But after more than 100 days since he last stepped in the ring, Mitchell's finally set to go.
"I'm ready to fight right now," said the 30-year-old Brandywine, Md., resident who's represented by Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions. "I've already put in a lot of rounds and trained really hard ... and stayed sharp mentally and physically. I think that we've done a great job."
Mitchell (25-0-1, 19 knockouts), widely regarded in boxing circles as one of the country's most talented heavyweights, faces Banks (28-1-1, 18 knockouts) on Nov. 17 in Atlantic City, N.J. in a fight that could possibly position Mitchell for a shot at the world heavyweight title. The fact that the United States has not produced a world heavyweight champion since 2007 only adds more fuel to the already anticipated fight.
In Banks, Mitchell faces arguably his toughest opponent to date. The Detroit, Mich., native has spent the past several years sparring and training with Ukraine's Wladimir Klitschko, younger brother of World Boxing Council Heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko.
"It will put us in a good position, I think, after maybe two more fights, that we could actually [contend] for the [heavyweight] title," said Mitchell's manager, Sharif Salim. "[Which is] something that we would very much like to bring to D.C.," Salim said of a potential title fight.
Mitchell's reputation has spread from the D.C. region to the rest of the country. On Oct. 27, HBO debuted 2 Days: Seth Mitchell, a TV program that chronicled life inside the Mitchell camp for 48 hours before and after the slugger's late-April, third-round knockout victory over Chazz Witherspoon.
"It was cool for them to follow us around on Friday and Saturday," Mitchell said. "We didn't do anything out of the norm. What people saw, is what typically happens two days before a fight. We walk together, we eat together, we do everything as a team."
Despite Mitchell's fast track to boxing success, the married father of two first laced up boxing gloves a mere six years ago. Football and basketball were his two loves.
Mitchell ascended to football fame as a standout linebacker at Brandywine's Gwynn Park High School, where he earned multiple national and regional awards. He accepted a football scholarship to Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., where he met his wife Danielle and earned his degree in criminal justice.
Michigan State also set Mitchell's boxing career in motion. Throughout his career as a Spartan, Mitchell played against former Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski several times. But after Zbikowski graduated, he turned to boxing and climbed the amateur ranks. His success caught Mitchell's attention.
"I had watched boxing before, but it was just the simple fact that we were both collegiate football athletes who played against each other every year," said Mitchell. "He made it seem real and tangible to me. I saw that it was something that I could really do. I think that was the real reason. If I hadn't seen him play, I might not have ever considered it."
Mitchell fought his first professional bout in 2008 and won the match by unanimous decision. Salim learned of Mitchell through a mutual friend and took note of a range of qualities the boxer possessed that impressed him.
"I've been going to [boxing] gyms since 1959. It's definitely in my DNA ... sometimes we even took boxing gloves to the picnics," said Salim, who lives in Bowie, Md. "The Kennedys had football in Cape Cod; we had had boxing in Southeast. They had Hyannis Point; we had Hains Point."
It didn't take much to sell Salim on Mitchell.
"I was enamored; I was very much in awe with the quality of the young man. Seth is a person of tremendous character. Early on, I noticed that he had a supreme sense of purpose," Salim said. "He had a tendency to set goals and block out the distractions that would impede them from becoming a reality. I am most impressed with his ability to have that stick-to-it-itiveness, that perseverance."
Mitchell will rely heavily on those traits when he fights in what is likely the biggest bout of his career.
The Mitchell camp flew in Atlanta-based boxer Joe Rabotte to spar and train with Mitchell in preparation for the fight. The two first fought each other in 2009.
"He's more of an athlete than people in boxing want to give him credit for, since he came from another sport," said Rabotte, 33, of Mitchell. "He has great boxing abilities and is a student of the game. He has the intelligence to work the ring and do things that you really can't teach someone to do in boxing."
While the soft-spoken Mitchell won't allow himself to take too much credit for the success he's enjoyed the past six years, he doesn't hesitate to thank his D.C.-area fans, adding that he intends to do his best to revive boxing in the nation's capital.
"I just want to thank everyone from the area for their support. Boxing is definitely a tough sport, a tough way to make a living, and I appreciate all of the positive comments that everyone's given me. I ask them to keep me in their prayers and we hope, in the near future, to bring big-time boxing back to the area," Mitchell said.