By Anthony Cocks
For some boxers, establishing a loyal fanbase willing to part with their hard-earned dosh to watch them fight live can be even more challenging than winning the fights in the ring. And in a sport where marketing and self-promotion is critical to long-term success, many boxers take the easy route and flood social media with posts of their gym workouts, their food and endless shirtless selfies.
But popular Peninsula puncher Jayde Mitchell has taken a more low-key approach to establishing his brand and publicising his name in an increasingly crowded marketplace. And it’s a surprisingly simple formula.
“It probably has something to do with not being a wanker and taking shirtless selfies and telling people I train harder than them,” laughs J-Mitch. “And I don’t use the hashtag ‘beast mode’, that’s a start!”
The 31-year-old super middleweight prides himself on being an everyday fella, a regular Joe. The former concreter, who clocked in at a whopping 130kg – or 286 pounds – when he took up boxing hasn’t forgotten his roots.
“I don’t take myself too seriously as a person,” says Mitchell, 14-1 (8). “I love to have a joke, love to have a bit of fun. I’m just your average bloke who’s having a red-hot crack. I was 130kg only a few years ago. People like to see people having a go. I give people time too. I give back and I show humility, and that’s huge. Honestly mate, I think that’s what it is.”
Mitchell returns to the ring this Friday night when he defends his OPBF and interim WBA Oceania super middleweight titles against Ainiwaer Yilixiati 10-0 (8) over ten rounds at the Melbourne Pavilion in Flemington on a Big Time Boxing card.
It will be Yilixiati’s first fight outside of his native China but the 24-year-old had a long and successful amateur career that saw him represent his country in international tournaments. While Yilixiati has been impressive in stopping 80% of his opponents, Mitchell is expecting more than just a raw knockout artist when they meet in the ring.
“He is not just a one trick pony,” says Mitchell. “He does have power but he can actually box too and cut an angle here and there. I wouldn’t say to the extent that I do, but I don’t think there’s many super middleweights in the world who actually move like me, who have my footspeed or my movement. But yeah, this guy in not just a one trick pony and he’s more than just a puncher.
“He’s got one of those heads that just looks tough, mate. It could go the full distance. The sooner I can get a beer in my hand after the fight, the better so I never want to go the distance. But he does look like a tough customer. He is Northern Chinese and he’s got that Gennady Golovkin, that Kostya Tszyu look about him, he just looks like a hard bastard.
“But if I can get him out of there nice and early, that would be good. And at the same time if I zig when I should’ve zagged, he may possess the power to get me out of there too, we don’t know. But I’ve shown a pretty good set of whiskers over my career.
“But look, they’re coming here to test me. They think they can win and this is not an easy fight.”
The one name that inevitably comes up when talking about Jayde Mitchell and the super middleweight division in Australia is Bilal Akkawy.
Akkawy, a hard-hitting 24-year-old from Peakhurst in Sydney’s inner west, is the WBA Oceania super middleweight champion with a record of 14-0-1 (12). Mitchell won the interim WBA Oceania title in the same division last November while Akkawy was out injured.
Akkawy first appeared the WBA world rankings last December at #12, drifted to #13 in February and disappeared from their top 15 in May. Akkawy hasn’t fought since his wild brawl with Kerry Hope last October that saw the Australian-based Brit suffer a broken jaw and several dislodged teeth. Meanwhile, Mitchell debuted in the WBA ranking at #15 in June and has jumped up a position to #14 in July.
“The whole idea of fighting Bilal was because he was world rated and I saw him as the weakest link in the top 15,” reveals Mitchell. “Now Bilal Akkawy is a monstrous puncher. Everyone cares so much about the power. No-one talks about anything else about Bilal other than his power. I respect him but if you’re a one-trick pony and your trick is to knock people out, that’s a tough fight, that’s a dangerous fight, I understand that. But power is not the be all and end all.
“If Bilal and his people want to come to Melbourne, that fight is on 100%. I honestly wanted to fight him when he was world rated. Its’ nothing personal, I’ve got nothing bad to say against Bilal or his team themselves, they’re great people, but I just find it’s funny how people just get so excited by the power. People don’t talk about anything other than his power, whereas people talk about my boxing ability. People are realising now that I am starting to punch now too. There’s levels to what I do, there’s a lot of levels to what I do. And I’m becoming a more and more well-rounded fighter. This is my fourth fight for the year already so I’m going to be hot to trot late September, early October if the Akkawy fight happens.”
The goal is for Mitchell to be 17-1 by the end of the year before stepping up his level of competition in 2018 as they zero in on a shot at WBA ‘regular’ super middleweight champion Tyron Zeuge of Germany.
One thing is certain, regardless of whether the Akkawy fight happens or not you won’t see Mitchell sitting on the sidelines for long.
“As long as beer tastes good, I’m going to have to stay busy,” laughs Mitchell.
CRAWFORD TO REPLACE PACQUIAO AGAINST HORN IF THE FILIPINO SENATOR RETIRES?
WBO welterweight champion Jeff ‘The Hornet’ Horn 17-0-1 (11) could be matched with undefeated WBC and WBO junior welterweight champion Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford 31-0 (22) from Omaha, Nebraska in his next fight if a rematch with former eight-division world champion Manny ‘Pac-man’ Pacquiao can’t be made later this year, according to Top Rank Vice President Carl Moretti.
29-year-old Crawford will first need to get past Namibian southpaw Julius Indongo 22-0 (11), who holds the WBA, IBF and IBO 140-pound titles, when they meet at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska on a Top Rank card on 19 August on ESPN.
Pacquiao, 38, briefly retired in April last year after defeating Timothy Bradley for the second time in their three fight series, but quickly reneged and returned to the ring last November to outbox Jessie Vargas over 12 rounds for the WBO welterweight title.
The popular Filipino senator lost a twelve-round decision along with his world title to Horn at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium in Australia in front of 51,000 people and has a rematch clause in his contract with the 29-year-old former schoolteacher. No decision has yet been made on whether he will execute the rematch clause and the Top Rank brass are keen to put a contingency plan in place for Horn, who they co-promote with Duco Events.
“Well, I don’t know right now [what will happen with Jeff Horn]” Moretti told On The Ropes Boxing Radio. “You got the rematch being discussed between Jeff Horn and Manny Pacquiao, so depending on what happens with that decision, it could impact Crawford in some ways or it could not.
“If Manny decides to retire, then Jeff Horn could look at a fight with Terence Crawford if that made sense for everybody. But like anything else, it’s tough to predict now what’s going to be the case four months from now. You just have to play it out on every angle.”
KRIS GEORGE TO DEFEND COMMONWEALTH TITLE AGAINST JACK BRUBAKER IN OCTOBER?
It looks like 27-year-old Toowoomba welterweight Kris George 12-1 (6) will be defending his Commonwealth title against domestic rival ‘Gelignite’ Jack Brubaker 13-1-1 (7) of Cronulla in a mouth-watering cross border clash tentatively scheduled for October.
“I would just like this time to formally call out Kris George,” said 25-year-old Brubaker in the ring after the recent Brendon Smith promoted card in Toowoomba. “I would love to have a fight, it would be great for Australian boxing, number two and three in Australia fighting it out in the ring. The winner of that fight I believe would have a really good say against Jeff Horn. I’m sure I can speak for Kris when I say he wants that fight with Jeff Horn, I want that fight with Jeff Horn and the winner of myself and Kris would have a really good say on who gets that fight.
“Kris is a really great fighter who has done a lot of great things in the ring. I would respectfully like to challenge him for him Commonwealth title. I want that belt and I believe it would be a great fight for Australian boxing, two and three fighting it out.”
Brubaker had a big win on the road last year when he travelled to Tokyo, Japan to defeat Suyon Takayama for the OPBF title by split decision. It was only Takayama’s second loss in 26 contests and Brubaker had to climb off the canvas in the eleventh to claim the belt. It was in that fight that Brubaker injured his hand, derailing what was supposed to be his big opportunity to fight for the Commonwealth title against Cameron Hammond late last year.
“Yes, I think it would be a great fight for Australian boxing and I’m glad Jack has come up here and called it out,” said George in response to Brubaker in the ring. “Not always can we make this happen, we’ve got a lot of things ahead of us. “But I actually owe it to Jack to give him a chance because an injury to his hand is the reason I got the fight with Cameron Hammond in the first place. So it makes sense. Jack deserved his shot and missed out so I hope we can make it happen in the future.”
George surprised many when dealt 2012 London Olympian Hammond his first loss last November to annex the vacant Commonwealth welterweight title. George had Hammond on the deck in the sixth and ran away with a surprisingly wide unanimous decision win.
Although no date has been made official, don’t be surprised if the fight lands on Paul Nasari’s next promotion at Olympic Park in Sydney on 28 October. That card already has Sakio Bika pencilled in, along with two Australian title fights at 175 and 122 pounds, and Tim Tszyu in what by then will be his eighth pro fight. George vs Brubaker for the Commonwealth welterweight title would be the icing on the cake.
SHOTGUN BLASTED IN TWO, DIB DISAPPOINTED
Super bantamweight ‘Shotgun’ Shannon O’Connell 15-6-1 (7) didn’t have the return to the ring she was hoping for when she got mugged by hard-hitting African Helen ‘The Iron Lady’ Joseph 14-3-1 (9) in front of her hometown crowd at the Famous Fortitude Gym in the Brisbane suburb of Newstead, Queensland on Saturday night.
O’Connell held a three-and-a-quarter pound advantage at the weigh-in but it meant nothing on fight night with the 28-year-old Ghana-based Nigerian outmuscling and outslugging her over a round and a half before the knockout came courtesy of a picture-perfect left hook.
The KO was savage. But even before that, O’Connell tasted the power of the boxer aptly known as the Iron Lady. A chopping right cross in an exchange just before the bell to end the first dropped O’Connell to her backside, heavily. She walked back to her corner on steady legs but now had a real sense of what she was up against.
Midway through the second round O’Connell moved straight back, her hands lower than they should have been. Joseph snapped the left hook and it found the point of O’Connell’s unprotected chin.
Her body twisted and she slumped, unconscious, to the canvas.
It was a bad loss for O’Connell, who was coming off a game effort in her last fight against IBF 122-pound champion Marcella ‘La Tigresa’ Acuna in Argentina in June when she lost a competitive 10 round decision on points.
Meanwhile former IBF featherweight champion Billy ‘The Kid’ Dib 42-4-1NC (24) fared slightly better in his first fight in the United States in three years when he faced Yardley Armenta Cruz 22-8-1NC (12) on the untelevised portion of the undercard of the Mikey Garcia vs Adrien Broner fight at Brooklyn’s Barclay Centre last Saturday night.
I say “slightly” because an unintentional head clash opened a small cut over the 23-year-old Mexican’s eye and prompted him to withdraw from the fight in the third round of a scheduled eight. With not enough rounds completed to force the fight to the scorecards, the result rendered was a no contest.
“Unfortunately it was not the result I yearned for but that’s boxing,” Dib, ranked number three by the IBF at super featherweight, told his fans on Twitter. “My opponent saw the writing on the wall, and took the easy way out.”
The 31-year-old Sydneysider was in full control at the time of the stoppage.
Dib won the vacant IBF 126 pound title in 2011 against Mexican Jorge Lacierva. He lost his world title to Russian Evgeny Gradovich by split decision in 2013 before losing a rematch for the title by TKO9 later the same year.
On social media Dib has flagged a “really big announcement” in the coming weeks. We can only hope that it’s a world title shot for the hardworking veteran.
In other news Rivan Cesaire 15-5-1 (3) held onto his Australian welterweight title with a ten round points win over Jamie Hilt 6-2-1 at Rumours International in Toowoomba, Queensland on a Brendon Smith promoted card on Saturday 22 July. Scores were 99-92 and 98-92 twice.
In a heavyweight clash Randall Rayment 7-3 (2) caused a mild upset by outboxing the more experienced Herman Ene Purcell 12-7 (6) in a six rounder by scores were 60-54, 59-58 and 58-56.
Popular young prospect Tim Tszyu 6-0 (5) was also in action scoring his fifth straight stoppage win with a TKO2 of Townsville’s Chris Khan 1-2-1 (1). The fight was contested at a catchweight between middleweight and super middleweight. Tszyu expects to fight at junior middleweight once he starts contesting titles.