WASHINGTON, DC — Heavyweight Seth Mitchell, 23-0 with one draw and 17 knockouts, will face Uzbek Timur Ibragimov, 30-3 with one draw and 16 knockouts, in an undercard fight Saturday before the Amir Khan-Lamont Peterson light-welterweight world title bout.
Not since Hasim Rahman's reign ended in 2006 has an American owned one of the three major heavyweight crowns, a drought of epic proportions given the US domination of the division in the 20th Century.
Ukrainian brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko have dominated the division the past decade.
Wladimir Klitschko, 56-3 with 49 knockouts, owns the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association titles while Vitali, 43-2, holds the World Boxing Council crown. They have vowed never to fight each other.
"They are good at what they do. They fight well and they dominate the sport," Mitchell said. "To fight them you have to have an aggressive style. You have to have power and speed. I have those attributes.
"Everybody wants somebody to relate to. Everybody wants an American heavyweight. If the Klitschkos were Americans, everybody would be excited about the Klitschkos."
Ibragimov, a cousin of former World Boxing Organization heavyweight champion Sultan Ibragimov, questions that notion, saying the Klitschkos' use their size and reach advantages to overwhelm foes but tend to have boring fights.
"The Klitschkos are not entertaining fighters but they do the job and do it very well," Ibragimov said. "People love entertainment. That's why they say there's nothing in heavyweights.
"When Tyson or Holyfield stepped in the ring, they started fighting the first second of the fight. The Klitschkos have long reach. They can stay on defense. They can stay 20 rounds on defense.
"It's really difficult. It's not to easy to come close to these guys."
Mitchell wants his chance to topple the Klitschkos and help revive the division that once galvanized the attention of the world.
"I want to be in this position," he said. "If the stakes are high you are going in the right direction. I want to win but at the same time I have responsibilities to look good while doing so. This is entertainment.
"It's my time now. I just have to go out there and prove it."