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 Klitschko’s 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: “Um, I mean, it really wasn’t — it took me about a week to get over the fight. Not one time did I ever like doubt myself or question myself, ‘Why am I boxing?’ 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 that’s when I started looking at the fight and analyzing the fight.
“I 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 didn’t read a lot of articles and stuff that were said about me. I don’t get too high on the praise, and I don’t 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. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’m just working hard on getting better.”
BoxingScene.com: When did you get back into the gym?
Mitchell: “Two weeks after the fight. The longest I’ve ever been out of the gym is three weeks. I don’t take a lot of time out of the gym. I get right back in there.”
BoxingScene.com: How many times have you watched the Banks fight? What did you see when you watched it?
Mitchell: “I watched it probably 20 or 30 times. Just my balance and my distance was terrible in that fight. That’s one of the main things that we’re definitely working on, is my balance and distance. I had a great game plan going into the fight. He didn’t do anything that surprised me. We knew going into the fight that he was a counterpuncher, that we couldn’t be overzealous and that we couldn’t reach and lunge.
“And 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.”
BoxingScene.com: You went back and watched it 20 or 30 times?! I’m guessing you have to emotionally distance yourself to be able to go back and watch that happen to you over and over again.
Mitchell: “Yeah, definitely. It’s 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 — I was weakened so much that you could’ve 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.”
BoxingScene.com: It seemed to me that you had hurt him, or at least seemed like you’d 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: “I had him, I wouldn’t 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 didn’t say to myself, ‘OK, I’m about to go try to finish him,’ but even though I didn’t say it, that’s what my actions showed. And then in doing so, my balance and my distance was awful.
“I hate to even talk about it, because when I watch the tape I just shake my head. I know better than that. My trainer didn’t tell me to go in there and throw wild, wide punches and not come in behind my jab. But that’s what I did, and Johnathon took advantage of it.”
BoxingScene.com: Were you surprised that he was able to hurt you like he did? because he wasn’t really known for his power at heavyweight.
Mitchell: “I mean, that was the first time that I’ve ever been down. You know, the first time I’ve ever been stopped. It was surprising, but I’ve said this numerous times: It only takes one shot in the heavyweight division. I don’t think that I can’t be beat. Before this fight, I’ve said numerous times that I didn’t think that I was invincible. It happens. And I just got to get better. It didn’t discourage me. I didn’t get down on myself. I just looked at the fight and said, ‘I’ve got to work on some things.’ And that’s what I’ve been doing.”
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 you’re working on things like balance and distance, but what about reacting when you’re hurt?
Mitchell: “Right, and those are things my trainer and I, we’re definitely working on. The funny thing about it is it’s not something that we haven’t worked on before. It’s just I didn’t do it right that night. But definitely pulling closer with my hands up, not reaching. Don’t try to reach to hold on, and instead of grabbing him at the waist, you know, tie his arms up.
“Because 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 I’m trained to do as well. He did it. I didn’t do it in that fight, but hopefully that won’t happen in this next fight coming up. That’s a learning experience. I’ll take heed of the advice that I’ve been told and just get better at it.”
BoxingScene.com: Why take this immediate rematch with Banks? Why not have a tune-up bout first?
Mitchell: “That’s not my style. Taking nothing away from Johnathon Banks: I think he’s a good fighter, but I don’t think that he’s 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.
“I 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, ‘Can we get a rematch with him?’ So they’re 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.”
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: “I’m not going to go into my strategy, but I just have to fight my fight. I’m naturally a very aggressive individual. You know me, whether you saw me play basketball or football, I’m very aggressive, I’m 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.”
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: “That’s the interesting thing about it. That’s the thing that’s most difficult. It’s just something that has to be done. It’s repetitions, repetitions and repetitions. That’s what we’ve been doing it. It just has to become second nature to you. Thus far I’ve been a quick learner, so I’m quick study. I think that it’s going to be a different outcome this time. I’m excited for the fight. We’ll see what happens, but I definitely wanted the fight, and I’m definitely sure I’ll be victorious this time around.”
BoxingScene.com: Is the goal still to face a Klitschko brother sometime in 2013?
Mitchell: “It’s late 2013 or early 2014. But my main focus is Feb. 16. I know if I don’t take care of business on that night, then that will set me back for a while. I definitely don’t want that to happen. My goal is to take care of business. That’s all I’m focused on.”
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: “It’s both. I know that this is a big fight. I wouldn’t say — it’s not like a lot of people say, that it’s a career fight. I wouldn’t necessarily say that. I’m still young in the game. I’m only 30 years old. I still have a lot to learn. At the same time, I’m on a stage that I want to continue to be on, and I know that if I don’t win this fight, that it will take me off this stage for a while. So it’s a lot of pressure, but it’s a stage that I want to be on, and when you’re on that stage you’re heading in the right direction.”
BoxingScene.com: Anything else you want to say to people?
Mitchell: “I just want to thank everybody that’s supported me and stayed true to me. Continue to watch me, and definitely tune in on the 16th. It’s going to be a great night of boxing, with myself, and Adrien Broner in the main event. I’m excited, and I’m glad that the fight wasn’t 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. It’s going to be a good night of boxing. Oh, and follow me on Twitter (@SethMayhem48) and on Facebook.”
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 protected]