by David P. Greisman
Almost exactly three months will have separated the night in November that Johnathan Banks gave Seth Mitchell his pro defeat and the day this coming February that Mitchell will face Banks in a rematch and try to avenge that loss.
Banks-Mitchell 2 is slated to take place on Feb. 16 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, the same venue as their first bout, and once again on the undercard of an Adrien Broner main event. (Broner will defend his lightweight title against Gavin Rees).
Mitchell was a hyped heavyweight prospect at the time, receiving prime slots on HBO broadcasts and hearing his name mentioned as a potential foe down the line for one of the Klitschko brothers.
Banks, meanwhile, was coming off an emotional several weeks, with the death of his longtime trainer, Emanuel Steward, and with the need to travel to and train in Germany, where he replaced Steward in Wladimir Klitschkoís camp and corner.
One week after Klitschko dominated Mariusz Wach, Banks proceeded to score a second-round technical knockout over Mitchell.
That was a month and a half ago. Now, with a month and a half before the rematch, the 30-year-old Maryland resident tells BoxingScene.com that while Banks won their first bout, this second fight will show that Mitchell is better than him.
BoxingScene.com: This is the first round of media interviews since you got stopped in November by Johnathon Banks. You know what the line of questioning is going to be. How hard has it been to think about your first loss, never mind talk about it with us?
Mitchell: ďUm, I mean, it really wasnít ó it took me about a week to get over the fight. Not one time did I ever like doubt myself or question myself, ĎWhy am I boxing?í or anything like that. So mentally and physically I was fine right after the fight. But just the competitor in me, it was just hard for me to get over the fight. It took me about a week to get over it. And thatís when I started looking at the fight and analyzing the fight.
ďI saw some things that I was doing wrong. And we just went back to the drawing board and to getting better at those things. Before the fight, I didnít read a lot of articles and stuff that were said about me. I donít get too high on the praise, and I donít let the criticism bring me down too much. You got to have calloused skin in this business. I just try to stay focused. I only let things bother me that I can control. Thatís what Iíve been doing. Iím just working hard on getting better.Ē
BoxingScene.com: When did you get back into the gym?
Mitchell: ďTwo weeks after the fight. The longest Iíve ever been out of the gym is three weeks. I donít take a lot of time out of the gym. I get right back in there.Ē
BoxingScene.com: How many times have you watched the Banks fight? What did you see when you watched it?
Mitchell: ďI watched it probably 20 or 30 times. Just my balance and my distance was terrible in that fight. Thatís one of the main things that weíre definitely working on, is my balance and distance. I had a great game plan going into the fight. He didnít do anything that surprised me. We knew going into the fight that he was a counterpuncher, that we couldnít be overzealous and that we couldnít reach and lunge.
ďAnd even though I dominated the first round and actually was winning the fight before I got knocked down, when I went back and reviewed the first round I saw that I was still lunging and that my balance was off. Those are things that I definitely have to correct for this next fight.Ē
BoxingScene.com: You went back and watched it 20 or 30 times?! Iím guessing you have to emotionally distance yourself to be able to go back and watch that happen to you over and over again.
Mitchell: ďYeah, definitely. Itís funny, because when I watched the Chazz Witherspoon fight, watching that fight was more, like, scary because the punches that I took were a littler more gruesome and were actually harder. But in this fight, when I first got knocked down, my balance and my stance ó I was weakened so much that you couldíve pushed me and knocked me down. All you had to do was tap me, because my center of gravity was all off. It was a learning experience. I won with grace, and I lose with grace. I take my hat off to Johnathon. He did what he was supposed to do, and I just got to get better.Ē
BoxingScene.com: It seemed to me that you had hurt him, or at least seemed like youíd landed a really good body shot, and that had emboldened you to throw the punch that first got you in trouble. Is that what you saw when you looked at the fight, or when you think back to the fight?
Mitchell: ďI had him, I wouldnít necessarily say hurt, but he definitely felt me twice in the first round. I think I had him dazed. It might not have been much, but twice in the first round. And then in the second round, I hit him with a good body shot that he felt. I didnít say to myself, ĎOK, Iím about to go try to finish him,í but even though I didnít say it, thatís what my actions showed. And then in doing so, my balance and my distance was awful.
ďI hate to even talk about it, because when I watch the tape I just shake my head. I know better than that. My trainer didnít tell me to go in there and throw wild, wide punches and not come in behind my jab. But thatís what I did, and Johnathon took advantage of it.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Were you surprised that he was able to hurt you like he did? because he wasnít really known for his power at heavyweight.
Mitchell: ďI mean, that was the first time that Iíve ever been down. You know, the first time Iíve ever been stopped. It was surprising, but Iíve said this numerous times: It only takes one shot in the heavyweight division. I donít think that I canít be beat. Before this fight, Iíve said numerous times that I didnít think that I was invincible. It happens. And I just got to get better. It didnít discourage me. I didnít get down on myself. I just looked at the fight and said, ĎIíve got to work on some things.í And thatís what Iíve been doing.Ē
BoxingScene.com: What about working on what to do when you get hurt? When you were holding him, you were holding him below his arms. Obviously youíre working on things like balance and distance, but what† about reacting when youíre hurt?
Mitchell: ďRight, and those are things my trainer and I, weíre definitely working on. The funny thing about it is itís not something that we havenít worked on before. Itís just I didnít do it right that night. But definitely pulling closer with my hands up, not reaching. Donít try to reach to hold on, and instead of grabbing him at the waist, you know, tie his arms up.
ďBecause Johnathon did what he was supposed to do: When I grabbed him at the waist, he stepped back and he threw punches up top, which is what Iím trained to do as well. He did it. I didnít do it in that fight, but hopefully that wonít happen in this next fight coming up. Thatís a learning experience. Iíll take heed of the advice that Iíve been told and just get better at it.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Why take this immediate rematch with Banks? Why not have a tune-up bout first?
Mitchell: ďThatís not my style. Taking nothing away from Johnathon Banks: I think heís a good fighter, but I donít think that heís a better fighter than me. He won, and I just got to go out there and stick to my game plan and get better with my fundamentals and take care of business this fight.
ďI want it to be known that this is a fight that I wanted. As soon as I went back into the dressing room, I asked, ĎCan we get a rematch with him?í So theyíre not throwing me in the fire. My team, my promotional company, my handlers, we do things in consensus. We talk a lot, and this is something that I called for.Ē
BoxingScene.com: What kind of changes, then, do you need to make, stylistically and strategically, in order to win the rematch? I know you mentioned balance and distance, but is there a different style or a different strategy this time around?
Mitchell: ďIím not going to go into my strategy, but I just have to fight my fight. Iím naturally a very aggressive individual. You know me, whether you saw me play basketball or football, Iím very aggressive, Iím a go-getter. But I have to, without changing my style and my aggressiveness, I have to channel it more. I have to know when to let loose, when to let the fight come to me. I just have to be smart and have a smarter approach.Ē
BoxingScene.com: How do you go about changing that part of who you are as a fighter in such a short time span between fights?
Mitchell: ďThatís the interesting thing about it. Thatís the thing thatís most difficult. Itís just something that has to be done. Itís repetitions, repetitions and repetitions. Thatís what weíve been doing it. It just has to become second nature to you. Thus far Iíve been a quick learner, so Iím quick study. I think that itís going to be a different outcome this time. Iím excited for the fight. Weíll see what happens, but I definitely wanted the fight, and Iím definitely sure Iíll be victorious this time around.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Is the goal still to face a Klitschko brother sometime in 2013?
Mitchell: ďItís late 2013 or early 2014. But my main focus is Feb. 16. I know if I donít take care of business on that night, then that will set me back for a while. I definitely donít want that to happen. My goal is to take care of business. Thatís all Iím focused on.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Is that possibility of a setback something that brings a lot of pressure, or is it something that also makes you even more driven?
Mitchell: ďItís both. I know that this is a big fight. I wouldnít say ó itís not like a lot of people say, that itís a career fight. I wouldnít necessarily say that. Iím still young in the game. Iím only 30 years old. I still have a lot to learn. At the same time, Iím on a stage that I want to continue to be on, and I know that if I donít win this fight, that it will take me off this stage for a while. So itís a lot of pressure, but itís a stage that I want to be on, and when youíre on that stage youíre heading in the right direction.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Anything else you want to say to people?
Mitchell: ďI just want to thank everybody thatís supported me and stayed true to me. Continue to watch me, and definitely tune in on the 16th. Itís going to be a great night of boxing, with myself, and Adrien Broner in the main event. Iím excited, and Iím glad that the fight wasnít five or six months away so that I can get right back in the ring. Just continue to pray for me, and definitely tune in. Itís going to be a good night of boxing. Oh, and follow me on Twitter (@SethMayhem48) and on Facebook.Ē
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at email@example.comTags: Johnathon Banks , Seth Mitchell , Mitchell-Banks , Mitchell vs Banks