American heavyweight Seth Mitchell takes the next big step in his development when he faces Chazz Witherspoon this Saturday (April 28) on the undercard of Hopkins-Dawson II. With unified champion Wladimir Klitschko identifying him as a potential future opponent, the undefeated Mitchell now will have to endure more intense scrutiny of his performances as he’s mapped out a “four fight, one-year” plan to his first title shot. Is the former college linebacker ready to handle a wholly different type of championship sports pressure?
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Last time we talked was before the Timur Ibragimov fight. You didn’t want to give it away at the time, but you mentioned there was a flaw you wanted to work on. Care to now reveal what it was?
Mitchell: I had a tendency to drop my left hand when I threw my right hand. I corrected it but not as much as I would’ve liked. I’m still working on it – it’s like a bad habit but we’re working on it as we speak.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: What else were you able to take from that win?
Mitchell: Most people see me go forward in my bouts. But this fight I noticed he tried to use his experience and overwhelm me by using his jab and trying to find the right hand. So instead of me coming forward being the aggressor, I would take little steps back and to the side and let him be the aggressor. That’s how I countered off his jab and slipped inside with the left hook. That’s what stunned him and lead to the finish. At that point, it was forget being a boxer and let’s finish this.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: What does Chazz Witherspoon represent for you at this stage of your career? Do you feel “legit threat” or “exhibition fight” when you hear his name?
Mitchell: I see a guy that’s good at everything. He can fight on the inside a little bit, has a good jab and good movement. He’s fundamentally sound and brings his hands back. And he has a little bit of athleticism. He will fight too even though sometimes it’s to his detriment. He has the heart; every fight I’ve seen him in he comes to win. When he goes out, he goes out swinging.
I’m very excited and motivated about him. I’ve trained very hard and can’t wait until the 28th of April.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Being that you’ve now fought in your hometown on a national stage, do you think it’s better to nurture a hometown buzz ala Andre Ward or take the “road warrior” route?
Mitchell: I think you have to do it both ways. You don’t want to neglect the foundation that is your home base. Even as a champion you should come back and reward your fans. You might have a lot of fans that want to support you but may not have the money for the plane tickets for Cali and Vegas and the hotel rooms. So it’s always good to come back with a hot card and venue. Not necessarily every fight, but definitely regularly.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: The biggest heavyweight publicity recently was February’s brawl with David Haye and Dereck Chisora. Some fans enjoy spectacles like that. Did you view it as a detriment?
Mitchell: Some say any publicity is good publicity, so in that regard it did shine light on the heavyweight division. But the stuff that happened outside the ring was a bunch of craziness. It shouldn’t have happened, shouldn’t have took place as far as what Chisora did [slapping Vitali Klitschko]. I thought the champs handled themselves well. I don’t think I could’ve handled myself that way, so kudos to them.
You gotta stick to fighting inside the ring. It’s one thing to promote the fight and talk trash but sometimes people cross the line. It was definitely crossed that night.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: As you’re aware the Klitschkos are in dire need of new opponents and have had their eyes on you, particularly Wladimir. When you hear that from these veteran champs, has that made your team speed up your timeline for a title shot?
Mitchell: We’re sticking to my development. My team and Golden Boy feel in about four fights, a year’s time, we’ll be ready for that championship challenge. It feels good to hear him say that but at the same time everything is on me. If I don’t go out in the ring and produce, get better and win in these next fights, then all that talk is for nothing. In this sport a loss can really you set back. When you start to look ahead and forget about the task at hand, that’s when you can lose sight of the big goal and take a L. I hear it, but I realize I gotta do what I do and get that buzz going. Then that day will come.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Which brother impresses you more?
Mitchell: Both of them! They pose different things that you have to worry about. I believe the younger brother is more athletic. He uses his legs better and has more power. He throws his right hand with more velocity and he’s quicker. I think the older brother throws more punches and will bang with you a little more. You have to look for more variety with him. Vitali is just tougher. He throws a lot more punches. You rarely see Wladimir throw body shots. He preps you with the jab and drops you with the right hand. Vitali will throw an up-jab and different types of jabs.
Both of them are very good and use the tools and attributes God has given them as far as their height. It’s no question they’re a tough task for anyone. You have to be on your “A” game to get in the ring with them.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: How is the fan buzz for this Hopkins-Dawson II card compared to what it was on Khan-Peterson? Do you feel the same level of excitement?
Mitchell: Well from my fans, yes! From others, not as much. I mean people are excited, but to me it doesn’t seem like it was for the Khan-Peterson fight. But my fans will definitely be deep in Atlantic City.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Aside from the left hand dropping you mentioned earlier, what else is important that you refined forSaturday night?
Mitchell: This might be a cliché answer but I’m still learning a lot. I still want to work on my counter-punching. I watch my fights and I’m like “Man, if I would’ve slipped here, came back with my right hand…” I feel like I hit a learning curve just a few months ago. I want to get better at all the basics and just be a better fighter overall.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: As media we’re always criticizing the boxing industry about what it can do better. Let’s flip that. As a fighter what do you think we can do better, particularly regarding the heavyweight division?
Mitchell: Here’s my concern. Writers have to understand that even though boxing is entertainment, it’s also a business. There’s a lot of politics involved but they just trash the boxers so much because of who they’re fighting.
A fighter will get to the title and they’ll say “Ah man, he’s been rushed. He’s not ready.” But then again when a fighter takes his time to develop, then he’s being babied and can’t fight. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I think they should take a more comprehensive view of the situation instead of just criticizing.
I know I can fight so I’m not even worried about it when my time comes.
“Hopkins vs. Dawson: Once And For All,” a 12-round bout for Hopkins’ WBC and Ring Magazine light heavyweight world championships, is presented by Golden Boy Promotions and Gary Shaw Productions and sponsored by Corona, AT&T and Caesars Atlantic City. Also featured will be a 12-round heavyweight battle between Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell and “The Gentleman” Chazz Witherspoon for the vacant NABO heavyweight title. The event will take place at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey and will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 10:15 p.m. ET/PT.
Tickets, priced at $300, $200, $100, $50 and $25, are available for purchase at the Boardwalk Hall box office, by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 736-1420 or online at ticketmaster.com.