by David P. Greisman
His HBO debut ended impressively, a second-round technical knockout of Timur Ibragimov. And now Seth Mitchell is ready to return to the network, fighting on HBO on April 28 against Chazz Witherspoon.
Mitchell, a 29-year-old heavyweight prospect, is 24-0-1 with 18 knockouts. Witherspoon, 30, is 30-2 (22 knockouts).
Just days after the fight was made official, Mitchell spoke with BoxingScene.com on Feb. 28 about the bout, about what he feels needs to happen in the ring, his response to those criticizing the match, and more.
BoxingScene.com: The news recently came out that you’re facing Chazz Witherspoon on April 28 on the undercard of the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson rematch. What’s your take on that fight?
Mitchell: “I think it’s a good fight. I think Chazz is a good opponent for me. He’s going to come ready to fight. I’m going to be ready. I’m excited about it. I can’t wait until the 28th.”
BoxingScene.com: Each time Witherspoon has stepped up competition, against Chris Arreola and Tony Thompson, he’s been stopped. What kind of result do you feel you have to have against him? What kind of statement do you have to make?
Mitchell: “I just need to go out there and put on a good performance. It might not seem that way — I know I knocked out 11 out of my last 12 — but I don’t go out there looking for the knockout. I just go out there and try to execute and stay behind my game plan. I know if I’m on my A-game and I touch my opponent enough times, it’s going to be hard for anybody to withstand 10 or 12 rounds of what I bring to the table. I’m looking forward to a good performance by me. I’m expecting a tough fight, but I definitely expect to shine.”
BoxingScene.com: I know the fight is still about two months away, but have you and your team had a chance to size up Chazz Witherspoon’s strengths and weaknesses?
Mitchell: “We’ve been trying to get this fight for about eight months now, so we know what Chazz brings to the table. We know that he’s a credible opponent. He has a good jab. He has good size. He knows how to fight on the inside well. We’ll be prepared for all that. We know about Chazz. Like I said, we wanted him to be my opponent Aug. 27, the fight that got canceled, that was supposed to be my HBO debut and fell through. We also wanted him for the Dec. 10 card, and it fell through.”
BoxingScene.com: You talked about his strengths. What about his weaknesses?
Mitchell: “He’s not a real puncher, and he tries to be. And he’s not a real solid puncher. He tries to bang with you sometimes when he’s really not built like that.”
BoxingScene.com: Why have you wanted him as an opponent for so many months now?
Mitchell: “Because I want to challenge myself. At that time, I thought it was a good fight. Our styles mesh. It’ll be an entertaining fight. You’ll have two heavyweights, two college grads. The storyline is there. His record speaks for itself. He’s been on the HBO level before. You have to take certain steps. I felt, and my team felt that’s a good step for me, a good test for me.”
BoxingScene.com: Is there certain additional pressure or expectations that come along with this fight with you being back in the HBO spotlight again?
Mitchell: “Definitely. I’m in the entertainment business. I’m a boxer, but I entertain people. They’re starting to gravitate toward me and like my fighting style. I got a buzz going, and I definitely want to keep that going. I don’t want to go out there and put on a sub-par performance. At the same time, I want to win at all costs. If it’s an ugly win, I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day.
“I want to be on that stage again. I want to get to the level where I’m headlining the show. So there’s definitely the excitement and the anticipation of doing well on these cards and these venues. At the same time, you have to channel it and not let it overwhelm you. I believe I’ve done a great job in doing that. But if I told you that I didn’t want to look the best, I’d be lying to you. If I didn’t do what I did in December, I might not be on HBO in the co-main event right now. I want to perform well.”
BoxingScene.com: Are you back in the gym already?
Mitchell: “Yes. I was back in the gym way before, maybe about three weeks after my last fight with light training. I was in the gym maybe only two or three days a week and then I would run two or three days a week. But training camp has officially started Monday [Feb. 27].”
BoxingScene.com: It seems like it’s a blessing and a curse when you get all this attention so early in your career. The blessing, of course, is you have all of this buzz behind you, but the curse also is the pressure and the expectations. There are some out there who expected a better opponent for you. What are your thoughts on that?
Mitchell: “Everybody has their opinions. I don’t worry about that. My team, my camp is doing a great job in moving me. I think this is a nice test for me at this juncture in my career. I’m going to just continue to do what I’ve been doing, beat who they put in front of me. Time will tell. But I know how to fight, so the people who say ‘They’re babying him’ or whatever they say, it really doesn’t matter to me.
“I will continue to go out there, work on my craft and put on exciting fights. I think this is a good fight, a good test for me. That’s what I have to say about it. I really don’t care what the critics say about my opponents, because I don’t think it’s a bad opponent at all.”
BoxingScene.com: This sport has people speak out when they think guys get title fights too soon, and then when people are taking their time, we say they’re not moving fast enough. There’s a school of thought that there’s a process to developing and moving up. Nobody talks about Andre Ward and the time that he took anymore.
Mitchell: “Exactly. And when I was earlier in my career, when I was like 15-0, 16-0, it would be in the back of my head. But then I started to do my homework. I started to look at the Lennox Lewises and the Mike Tysons and the Holyfields and the Riddick Bowes and look at their records, and they were doing the same thing that we’re doing, you know what I mean? It’s just ridiculous.”
BoxingScene.com: And those names you mentioned had more of an amateur career than you did.
Mitchell: “Exactly. I started boxing when I was almost 25 years old, four months before my 25th birthday.”
BoxingScene.com: After Chazz Witherspoon, are there certain people in mind?
Mitchell: “I just want to fight better and better opposition, fight people in the top 15, top 20. I don’t call out individuals. My team and my camp, we have a couple of people in mind.”
BoxingScene.com: Any final thoughts?
Mitchell: “I just want to thank all of my supporters for their support. And I want to thank all the doubters and the haters as well. I need all of you all to reach the top. I want everybody to come out or tune in on April 28 and watch this fight. It’s going to be a great fight. I’m excited about it. I hope you all are excited about it. Continue to pray for me, and I’ll do the same. You can follow me on Twitter (@SethMayhem48) and on Facebook, just ‘Seth Mitchell.’ ”
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to [email protected]