It’s not often that a hard-punching, 6’2, 240-pound plus man is viewed in boxing as a lamb coming to a slaughterhouse. If the general consensus is to be believed, that’s exactly the role heavyweight Seth Mitchell is playing when he faces contender Chris Arreola tomorrow night on Showtime Sports.
Despite Arreola’s well-documented deficiencies in focus and dedication, which have led to years of false promises and weight issues, the Mexican slugger has never lacked in two areas viewed to be Mitchell’s Achilles Heel(s) — a hard punch and never-ending pressure. Nevermind that Mitchell showed mental fortitude in immediately rematching (and winning) his last bout against Johnathon Banks, a man who blasted him out in just two rounds last year. Forget that Mitchell showed something that many fighters never can master, and that’s being able to remain composed when badly hurt. Just forget it all, because there’s no way Mitchell can fight off the backfoot and keep his chin away from Arreola’s bombs for 12 rounds, right?
When fans and writers think about predictions, we almost always project the “best versions” of the fighters facing each other. In Arreola’s case, the “best version” is an article of faith rather than anything he’s done thus far in his 10-year career. The Arreola who many believe will blast Mitchell out is the one who truly had a great camp instead just spewing lip service at press conferences. It’s the one who took his conditioning seriously. If that Arreola shows up, then yes, we can see a very short night. But if history has shown us any thing, we’re more likely to see the versions of Arreola that plodded aimlessly in his last fight against Bermane Stiverne, or even the one who took punishment from Friday Ahunanya of all people two years ago in Atlantic City.
If these versions of Arreola show up, then Seth Mitchell, who’s still admittedly “learning on the job,” has a chance to turn Arreola from “contender with unfulfilled promise” to “confirmed gatekeeper.” Still, it’s a formidable task to ask of a five-year pro with no amateur experience, not to mention one still struggling with balance and footwork. Nonetheless, at this level it’s sink or swim — learn to “swim without getting wet” as the wise trainer Naazim Richardson once said, or drown in the murky depths of your weaknesses. In this exclusive interview, Seth Mitchell speaks on how his track record has created a mental life jacket specially made to survive the storm Arreola will bring.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Before we get into the Arreola fight, let’s talk about the rematch win over Johnathon Banks. When the bell rang to finish the 12th, you threw your arms up into the air and exhaled. It looked like a huge weight had been lifted off of you. Am I reading into that right?
Seth Mitchell: Yeah man, it was a big fight for my career. I’m not even going to try and lie to myself. There was a lot of pressure in the fight and with things going on in my life [Writer’s Note: Mitchell’s wife had recently suffered a miscarriage prior to the bout]. When the final bell rung, I knew I had won. I knew it was a unanimous decision as I clearly won 8-9 of the rounds. I was just happy it was finally over
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Although the fight had a lot of slow moments, what stood out to me is you handled getting caught and hurt much better than the first fight. What went through your mind this time as opposed to the first time?
Mitchell: It was just a learning experience — I understand I have to win on the job and learn at the same time to stay on this level. “[What went through my mind was] ok, you’ve been here before.” The first time I got hurt, I went in there and slugged with him instead of waiting for the proper moment to grab him and just survive the round.
Last time, I said “ok, you got a little dinged. Don’t try and be macho. Keep your hands up and grab him when he gets close to you.” Those are things that allowed me to escape the third round.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: When did you think Johnathon Banks realized he wasn’t going to win? Do you feel he “gave up” in those later rounds?
Mitchell: Yes and no. We studied him and a lot of times he doesn’t throw many punches anyway. He might throw 15-20 punches per round which isn’t a lot. I truly think he didn’t expect me to come out and box him the way I did. He thought I would go back to my original game plan and be the bull I’ve been in my previous fights.
Like Tyson said, everybody has a plan until they get hit. He was waiting for me to revert back once I got caught and when I didn’t budge, he didn’t have a second game plan. When I waited for him to adjust because he couldn’t get past my jab, he didn’t try to become the bull and win the fight. Still, he tried to throw sneaky right hands all the way until the 12th round.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Now let’s move on to the current fight with Chris Arreola. How do you evaluate him at this stage of his career? Is he the downside based on what you’ve seen in recent fights?
Mitchell: I think Chris is a good fighter even though he lost his last fight. He brought it that whole fight even though he lost every round. He still had a chance to win because he was still throwing punches and applying pressure. On paper, his style will be the toughest style I’ve faced with the level he’s been on. I’m not concerned about his last performance because it’s an important fight for him as well.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: This is the first time you’ve faced a fighter that can go in on you verbally. Have you enjoyed the new ground of having to do a little trash talk yourself?
Mitchell: I’ve enjoyed the whole ordeal. Even Arreola’s trainer has been talking. You’d think I’ve been scheduled to face them for the last two years. Every time they had interviews my name has been in their mouths. It just gives me a little extra motivation. Arreola will have a lot to back up on September 7.
I’m not really a trash talker although I’m confident and have let it be known I’m going to win this fight. Far as the back and forth slander, that’s not my forte. Business will be taken care of in the ring.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: With you guys both under Al Haymon, have you crossed paths before? Could this be a matter of professional jealously regarding Arreola’s feelings about the attention you’ve been getting?
Mitchell: Obviously that’s what it is, I believe. I’ve never said anything that would make people want to jump down my throat or say I’m arrogant. I’ve only seen him one time in person when he fought Friday Anunaya in Atlantic City. We’ve never even said “what’s up” or shook each other’s hands.
He has a lot of envy and hate because of the current position I’m in. It is what it is. Everybody is not going to be on your side so it comes with the territory.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: There has been shuffling in the Top 10 with guys like Malik Scott going down. Even though the Klitschkos are still on top, do you see change on the horizon?
Mitchell: I definitely think a changing of the guard is coming. There are a lot of good heavyweights out there. Just because Malik Scott lost his last fight doesn’t mean his career is done. He’s a very good boxer. You can make good matches with myself, Deontay Wilder, Bryant Jennings, Chisora, Haye and Fury. But until the keys and mantle are taken from the Klitschkos, they’ll always get the most attention.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: The consensus is Arreola will take you out early on because of his power and pressure. How do you counteract his “bull in a china shop” approach?
Mitchell: Can’t say too much about the game plan, but know we’re very aware of what he brings to the table. To beat him, you have to be in great shape to fight Arreola. We’re working on certain things regarding that.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: You’re not a doctor, but being around football extensively and now boxing, do you think the broken nose Arreola suffered against Stiverne can be completely healed by this point?
Mitchell: Ah, I’ve never had my nose broke or someone close to me to really know if someone can come back in this time period. I’ve never even been cut…
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Knock on wood…
Mitchell: Right [laughs]
BeatsBoxingMayhem: In taking this fight, was one of the goals to prove that your chin can withstand the power of one of the division’s heavy hitters?
Mitchell: It motivates me, but I put more pressure on myself than anybody can put on me. I just want to succeed at whatever I set my mind to. I surround myself with a good group of people and stay away from the hoopla. My eye is on the prize to win this fight on the 7th.
I look at this fight as a must-win. If I don’t win this fight, my win against Johnathon Banks means nothing. It’s one thing to have already have been a champion and to take a loss at this level. People already know your mettle and what you bring to the table. A loss at that point won’t be as bad. But climbing the ladder? A loss is almost unforgivable.
In my eyes, I’ve done nothing yet in boxing. Some people would say you’ve fought on HBO and Showtime. You’re signed with Golden Boy. All that is true, but I’ve accomplished nothing. A loss here erases everything.
Mitchell vs. Arreola, a 12-round fight for the WBC Silver Heavyweight Title, is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions in association with Goossen Tutor Promotions and sponsored by Corona. The doubleheader will take place on Saturday, September 7 at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino and will be televised live on SHOWTIME beginning at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast). Doors open at 4:00 p.m. PT and the first fight begins at 4:05 p.m. PT.
Tickets, priced at $105, $75, $55, $45, $35 are available at the Fantasy Springs Box Office, by calling (800) 827-2946 or online at www.fantasyspringsresort.com.