Before his loss to Banks, Mitchell had fought just 23 rounds in 34 months. Now he’s fought just 25 rounds in the last 40 months. Jennings has logged 41 rounds in the past 18 months, and 64 rounds during the time span which Mitchell fought just 25. For a fighter who didn’t enter a boxing gym until age 24 and had only 10 amateur contests, his most important developmental period of his career was wasted.
From the moment the contract was signed, it was HBO (the Haymon Boxing Organization) that was in charge of Mitchell’s development. From then on, Mitchell’s development as a fighter took a back seat to available HBO and Showtime dates and “acceptable” opponents. Seth Mitchell was an “HBO fighter” now and there was no room for developmental fights against the likes of Dominick Guinn or Siarhei Liakhovich. They weren’t marketable.
Mitchell was pushed along and marketed as the next great heavyweight without his flaws being exposed until their unmasking was devastating. Mitchell’s manager, Sharif Salim, called the loss “an aberration.” However, it’s anything but when a talented but raw and inexperienced fighter is exposed by an experienced veteran.
Salim is quick to point out that efforts were made to pit Mitchell against durable foes who would provide the prospect with meaningful rounds such as Timor Ibragimov, who had not been stopped in his 34 professional fights. But when Mitchell did not get the rounds he had hoped for, the need for experience and tough rounds took a back seat to marketing and promotion in the form of Chazz Witherspoon.
Witherspoon had been unimpressive in beating some pretty bad opposition after his losses to Chris Arreola and Tony Thompson yet he managed to wobble Mitchell in their April 2012 contest. It should have been a wake-up call for Team Mitchell but after coming back to stop Witherspoon in three rounds, there would be no talk of taking a step back - or even sideways - to prepare Mitchell for his next step up in competition.
It was only a matter of time before the combination of inexperience and inactivity would catch up with the hyped heavyweight prospect. The biggest shock was not that it happened against Johnathon Banks but how it happened. Banks easily exploited just one of Mitchell’s flaws in his dramatic win. The real question now is how many more flaws can Banks exploit in their rematch?
The chances seem very slim that Seth Mitchell will avenge his lone defeat and put forth a performance warranting a top 10 ranking. And it’s undoubtedly better for his future if he does suffer another defeat. If Mitchell finds a way to defeat Banks, Haymon will surely “cash him out” and try to throw him in with a Klitschko for a fight in which he is nowhere near ready.
But there are reasons to remain positive about Mitchell’s future as a heavyweight. By merely adopting a more defensive mindset in the early rounds, he will acquire some needed experience against a very, very good opponent. Plus, the two fights against Banks will provide a great guide for areas that need the most improvement.
Make no mistake about it; Seth Mitchell has power and skills. And power can compensate for a lot of little mistakes. So Mitchell’s challenge is not to eliminate his flaws but turn his major flaws into minor ones. Although that is much easier said than done, Mitchell has the work ethic and the attitude to work on them. His trainer doesn’t have to worry about getting him shape, keeping him out of trouble or Mitchell trying to run his own camp.
Mitchell combines superb athletic ability with great size. With more - and better - ring experience, there is no reason to doubt Mitchell can one day earn a world championship belt in a post-Klitschko heavyweight division.
It’s hard to blame Team Mitchell for taking fights with six-figure purses over developmental fights for $15,000 on ESPN2 against opponents unapproved by boxing’s powers that be. But after tonight, the six-figure option should be off the table, so the team can focus again on Mitchell’s development as a fighter, not an attraction.
But there still remains one major hurdle to Mitchell’s future development: Haymon. If Al Haymon remains a part of Team Mitchell, there remains the danger of merely manufacturing a six or seven-win streak (recently done with Chris Arreola against the likes of Joey Abell) in hopes of securing one good payday.
Only time will tell.
Please visit our Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.