One of boxing's more interesting story lines is the immediate rematch of an earth-shaking upset. Such will be the case Saturday when Seth Mitchell, once regarded as the best American heavyweight hope, and Johnathon Banks, whose shattering two round KO over Mitchell ironically made him a top challenger to the fighter he now trains -- three-belt titleholder Wladimir Klitschko.
Some critics will label Mitchell-Banks II a "make-right" fight, almost daring Banks to replicate his magic or else be relegated to the ash heap. If Banks succeeds, then Mitchell will be the one cosigned to the rubbish bin. Cruel as this dynamic sounds, those are the Darwinian ways of boxing.
Will Mitchell prove that he learned the harsh lessons administered in fight one or will Banks prove that the flaws he exposed are beyond repair? Their mutual CompuBox pasts offer the following facts to consider:
A November to Remember -- Or Forget: Round one appeared to follow the script as Mitchell, nicknamed "Mayhem," out-landed Banks 15-9 and fired 52 punches to the normally sleepy Banks' 29. Then, with startling suddenness, the script was flipped in round two as Banks scored the first of what would be three knockdowns. Once the dust settled -- and Mitchell's unbeaten record disintegrated -- Banks had landed 60% of his overall punches and power shots and out-landed Mitchell 29-6 (overall) and 25-4 (power). As was the case against Chazz Witherspoon, Mitchell was almost frozen into inaction in the face of Banks' surge, a surge largely fueled by the recent death of longtime trainer Emanuel Steward.
For Banks it was a fairy-tale ending to what had been an unspeakably tragic period in his life while Mitchell was thrown into his own professional nightmare.
Mitchell's Measurables: Mitchell's ring character is that of a volume-punching bomber. While the average heavyweight throws 45.7 punches per round, Mitchell unleashed 68.3, 65 and 79.7 per round against Witherspoon, Timur Ibragimov and Hector Ferreyro -- all of whom he stopped. He also produced impressive accuracy on his power shots as he landed 43.9%, 42.3% and 64% in those fights.
But against Banks -- a technically sound boxer infused with Steward's deep strategic knowledge -- Mitchell was slowed to just 36.5 punches per round, landing only 28.8% overall and 25.6% of his power shots. Mitchell's low numbers are directly attributable to Banks' smothering second-round assault that limited him to just 21 punches in 156
seconds. The most intriguing question is whether the results of Banks' attack will cause Mitchell to become more cautious, to change who he is and, as a result, become a much lesser fighter.
Flipping the Switch: Conversely, Banks' ring persona was that of a skillful, thoughtful but tortuously boring fighter to watch. In victories over Nicolai Firtha and Saul Montana as well as a dreary draw against journeyman Jason Gavern, he barely registered a pulse. He averaged 32.8 punches per round against Firtha, 34.5 versus Montana and just 21.8 against Gavern and he was out-landed 70-61 -- over 12 rounds -- by the latter.
The saving grace for Banks in those fights was that all three opponents chose to match the slow pace as Firtha threw 31.3, Montana 25.9 and Gavern 29.7. Banks also threw more jabs than power shots -- an unusual trait in the power-laden heavyweight class.
But against Mitchell -- particularly in round two -- Banks fought like a tiger as he unleashed 42 power shots and just six jabs, a surprising 7-to-1 ratio in favor of power shots. The man who bored Klitschko audiences to sleep in Germany instead put Mitchell to sleep and by doing so he awakened his dreams of becoming a heavyweight title challenger.
Prediction: Banks' stunning performance in November was fueled by a confluence of circumstances much like Buster Douglas' as a 42-1 underdog against Mike Tyson in 1990. While styles do make fights, wild cards can trump everything. The guess here is that those wild cards won't be as prevalent in fight two and because of that each man will revert to old habits. On balance, those old habits will favor Mitchell.
Given a second chance, Mitchell's activity and superior power will give him a leg up on Banks, who normally operates in sleepy fashion. Without the fresh inspiration of Steward's passing serving as motivation, Banks will eventually fall to the numbers game and lose by TKO.