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The Ace that Got Lost in this Weekend’s Shuffle

(Photo © Tri Nguyen)
(Photo © Tri Nguyen)

Tonight, Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell, whom many consider America’s best heavyweight prospect, fights trial horse Hector Ferreyro on Telefutura and FOX Sports Net. If you were unaware of that fact, consider yourself part of the vast majority. No boxer has had a more disappointing month without actually suffering a loss. August 27th was to be Mitchell’s breakout date, earning a prized slot on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” series that is rarely given to heavyweights, but that card was scrapped by an injury to headliner Robert Guerrero. Instead, Mitchell fights in anonymity today, engaging in what can only be called a keep-busy bout. Even worse, Mitchell shares the weekend with Floyd Mayweather Jr., who is one of two boxers (you can guess the second) with the ability to suck up all the media attention of an electric city like Las Vegas.

Clearly, Mitchell, 22-0-1 (16), is well below boxing’s radar this week but his future is bright with the Klitschko brothers’ dispatching of top ten contenders like sparring partners. At the current rate, if Mitchell continues to progress, it is not outside of the realm of possibilities for Mitchell to be considered for a title shot by late 2012 or early 2013, especially considering Mitchell has the patronage of Golden Boy Promotions and manager Al Haymon. Mitchell only shares Oscar De La Hoya’s heavyweight ambitions with Deontay Wilder who, despite winning a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and sporting a similar record (18-0 with 18 knockouts against laughable opposition), is not as advanced nor ready for prime time. Chris Arreola and Eddie Chambers are more established but they fumbled the ball when given opportunities. Besides, America is always looking for the next big thing. The US of A is a barren landscape for heavyweights with only Mitchell showing the punching power to light up the horizon with his brand of fireworks.

Initially, I soured on Mitchell for something out of his control. A creative writer in Golden Boy’s hype department stated Mitchell is “a former All-American linebacker for Michigan State University.” What Mitchell was is an All-America High School player who played at Michigan State, not a Michigan State All-American (Mitchell started in 15 games over two seasons for the Spartans), something easily spotted by anyone who does not take press releases as gospel. Whoever wrote the bio, which is still up at Golden Boy’s website, understands that moving a couple words around makes a difference in perception. Still, being an All-America High School player is no minor accomplishment and Golden Boy’s press people should have left it at that. Who knows? If not for seven knee operations, Mitchell might have reached his NFL ambitions. Mitchell is already an All-American heavyweight, even though that distinction has lost prestige over the last couple of decades.

Given America’s lack of progress in the heavyweight division, it is frustrating to see Mitchell’s development stymied in any way. That counts doubly for Mitchell, who confided in our Steve Kim, “I was extremely excited; I believe that as a fighter, you reach levels and you want to get to one of the highest levels and that was just the start, me being a co-main event on HBO and working my way up to being the main event. I was excited at the same time but I didn’t want it to cause me too much anxiety or too much pressure to where I couldn’t perform.” Mitchell recognizes HBO dates hold a special place in boxing. “That was one of my main focuses; be grateful, be excited  that I was on HBO but knowing why I was on HBO- and that’s because of what I’ve been doing thus far in my career- and I knew I had to go out there and put on a good show so I could continue to get those calls." With no other available dates at HBO, Golden Boy decided to put Mitchell on their Telefutura series, understanding activity rates a close second to exposure for an emerging prospect like Mitchell.

I should love a heavyweight nicknamed “Mayhem” but remain skeptical of any “athlete” who comes to boxing after he can no longer compete at the highest level of his preferred sport. Usually, those athletes lack an ease in the ring and tense up in critical situations. After my initial skepticism, I am slowly coming around and noticing the boxing intuition others have inferred upon Mitchell. At 6’2” with a solid 240-pound body, he has the size and seems to have an affinity for boxing, turning professional after only ten amateur bouts. Unlike other American upstarts, Mitchell does not lack enthusiasm in the gym and only once disappointed on the scales, coming in above 250 pounds. At 29, Mitchell is not really playing catch-up as far as his age (many heavies mature later now) but certainly is in form and experience, having only registered nine months in the amateur system. Mitchell has knocked out his last seven opponents and more impressively, his competition has been elevated in that period. In conversations about Mitchell with boxing insiders, the word “natural” keeps popping up.

Hall-of-Famer Lou Duva, who does not train or have an interest in Mitchell, likes what he saw in the gym. “When I found out that Seth has only been fighting competitively for eight months, I nearly hit the floor. No one develops that quickly unless he has God-given talents.” Duva’s neutral observations are echoed elsewhere, specifically from our contemporary Dan Rafael at "In the land of American heavyweight prospects, it’s nice to find Mitchell, one of the few bona fide, up-and-coming big men. He is fundamentally sound and has shown improvement fight after fight. He’s a hard worker with a good attitude and just needs rounds and experience." As a bonus, Mitchell is a gentleman with a storyline similar to that of celebrated former lightweight champion Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz. Mitchell is married with one child and Maxboxing’s Alec Kohut’s describes his first meeting with Mitchell, “A warm, engaging personality and wide smile are the first impressions you get from Seth Mitchell and, as he speaks, a confidence and swagger reveal themselves without cockiness or arrogance. He is a modest man enjoying his quest for the heavyweight championship of the world.”

An intelligent and driven Mitchell invested his time wisely in college, earning a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Security Management while playing football. Mitchell told MSU Gameday Magazine, "I knew a lot of people thought I wasn’t going to graduate, so I took that as a personal challenge and I got my degree. There are a lot of athletes who only rely on their athletic talents but no matter what venue you compete in, you always have to have something to fall back on." Boxing came to Mitchell by accident, watching former gridiron rival Tom Zbikowski (a safety at Notre Dame) fight on a pay-per-view undercard. "He got my competitive juices flowing again and I thought to myself, if he can do that, so can I." Mitchell sought out local trainer Andre Hunter and neither man has looked backward since. "It took about two weeks for me to see what I was working with," Hunter said. "With [Mitchell]’s speed and his power, he was knocking down pro boxers when he was still an amateur. I have never seen anything like it."

Mitchell maintains a good schedule, averaging six fights a year, and would have fought more in 2011 if not for an USO-sponsored trip to Iraq to visit U.S. troops with De La Hoya. “The trip was definitely life-changing. It was great and so much more than I expected. Just to go over and visit them for a week was so special. To spend time with them and see what they go through on a day-to-day basis was a very humbling experience for me. It made me appreciate some of the things I take for granted. It’s just something I’ll never forget.” It has been four months since Mitchell last stepped in a ring, so he is ready to get back to work. “I’m in tremendous shape and my focus is at an all-time high. I’ve been fortunate enough to never have been cut or knocked down in my career and I don’t intend to either on Friday night but I’m not underestimating my opponent. I just know I’m not going to be the one going to sleep.”

Seth Mitchell is far from a finished product, which he will be the first to tell you, and in interviews, he is introspective about needing to improve. When asked about his skill set in May of this year, Mitchell responded honestly, “The one thing I think I can improve on is countering off my defense. I feel like I have a fairly strong defense but when I go back and watch myself, I see that my opponent will miss but that the counter is not there. It’s not second nature for me to do it. If I think about it, I do it but it doesn’t come naturally for me. So countering off my defense is something I’m really working on.” That will be overcome if Mitchell continues to toil in the gym, which does not sound like it should be a problem. “I’ve been boxing four years. I’ve never taken more than two-and-a-half weeks out of the gym. That’s the God’s honest truth, so I’m always in the gym."

Telefutura and many FOX Sports affiliate viewers will get to see the results of Mitchell’s hard work tonight at 11:30 PM, ET as part of what Golden Boy Promotions is calling an “unprecedented two network bilingual broadcast.” Opponent Hector Ferreyro lost his last two bouts, one by first-round stoppage, but is an honest pug with ten years of pro experience and has gone the 12-round distance on three occasions. There are worse ways to spend a Friday night- like watching Floyd Mayweather Jr. trying to be comical and flash cash- and there is no $70.00 PPV price tag associated with Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell…yet.
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