By Jake Donovan
You have to give Seth ‘Mayhem’ Mitchell credit. The unbeaten American heavyweight has the world at his fingertips but still prefers to earn his place in the world rather than settle for believing the hype surrounding his career.
“I want to be on HBO again,” Mitchell (23-0-1, 17KO) insists, ahead of his upcoming bout with Timur Ibragimov on December 10 in Washington D.C., which serves as the co-feature to Amir Khan's unified 140 lb. title defense versus Lamont Peterson. “I know I have to go out there and win, but I also have a responsibility to look good while winning."
Suffice to say, you’ll never see Mitchell – a former standout linebacker during his college days at Michigan State – associated with the phrase, ‘Win today, look good the next time.’
To date, Mitchell has looked tremendous nearly every time out. What’s missing thus far is the type of competition that can truly challenge him. His record is by no means soft, but it’s thin enough to where Ibragimov represents the stiffest challenge of his career.
What earned Mitchell the right to be on this show is not who he’s beaten, but the manner in which he wins. It also helps that the show is taking place in Washington, D.C., not too far from his hometown of Brandywine, MD.
Still, there are plenty of fighters from the area – Gary Russell Jr. lives in D.C. and has appeared on HBO, yet fights off camera in Cincinnati this weekend while HBO is there for Adrien Broner’s homecoming showdown with Vicente Rodriguez.
Geography doesn’t have as much to do with the equation as marketability. HBO and Golden Boy Promotions see a product that can be marketed, a concept that Mitchell has embraced from the moment he donned his first pair of gloves.
“I probably wouldn't be on this card if I was 23-0 with 6 or 7 KO's,” Mitchell believes. “People want to be excited and entertained. I want to get the KO but not overaggressive doing so. I want the ‘W’ but also look good doing it as well. I just try to be the best I can be and try to accomplish as much as I can. My style and way I fight creates the buzz."
Plenty of buzz has surrounded his career from the moment he traded in his football gear for boxing apparel. An All-American football player in high school, Mitchell proved to be a dominant force on the gridiron during his college days at Michigan State. An injury suffered in 2005 ended his chances of going pro, so he instead turned to a career in his college major of Criminal Justice.
That dream was put on hold in favor of the sweet science after watching fellow former college football star Tommy “Big Z” Zbikowski turn pro at Madison Square Garden. It inspired him to give boxing a try, leading to a brief amateur career before turning pro in 2008.
It’s been nothing but ‘Mayhem’ ever since, with many pegging the gifted athlete as America’s next best chance at restoring heavyweight glory in this corner of the world.
Mitchell is humbled by the accolades, but doesn’t put it ahead of actual in-ring achievement.
"Everyone saying I'm next great American heavyweight. It's great but I don't let that blow up my head. I try as best as I can to provide for my family."
He’s also enough of a realist to recognize that he’s a long way from claiming the top spot, and why today’s best heavyweights aren’t given the full credit they deserve.
“If the Klitschkos were American, everyone would be excited about them,” Mitchell theorizes. "They’re not the most exciting, but I respect them. If you get in the ring with them, you have to go after them. Nobody’s been able to so far. But if I get the opportunity, I have the tools to get it done.”
On the road to that destiny is winning in impressive fashion against Ibragimov, who was once touted along with his cousin and former heavyweight titlist Sultan Ibragimov as future stars but has proven to be just the latest in a long list of disappointments.
Still, it’s an opponent Mitchell takes seriously. It all ties into his work ethic, which is to maximize his talents and potential every time he steps into the ring. The desire comes from a life spent as a standout athlete. The rest comes from his days as a fan of the sport.
“I was a casual boxing fan but a big Mike Tyson. As I got more into it, I studied more tapes of everyone. I don’t truly emulate anyone. My favorite fighter today is Miguel Cotto. I don’t think he’s necessarily the best fighter in the world, per se. But the way he fights and the way he carries himself, he’s the consummate professional.”
Whether he proves to be the next great thing or the next big bust, professionalism and entertainment are where Mitchell will always live.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]