by David P. Greisman
Seth Mitchell’s primary sparring partners ahead of his April 28 fight on HBO against Chazz Witherspoon are a pair of heavyweights: Donnell Holmes and Joe Rabotte.
This is Holmes’ first time in camp with Mitchell, Rabotte’s second. Both spoke to BoxingScene.com at an open media workout on April 18, detailing how Mitchell is looking in camp, how they are preparing him and how they think the undefeated prospect will do in the future.
BoxingScene.com: How’s Seth looking in camp right now? What kind of work have you been giving him, and why?
Holmes: “He’s looking good, man, and the thing about it — Joe is a very good mover, so the thing about it with Joe is that’s why they bring him here, because he moves and he’s got fast hands, and the thing with me is I’ve got more experience. He got a good movement guy and good experience guy, so every time he spars, at night I would go home and think about what he did that day, so the next day I would make changes to make him better and to make me better.
“The difference is when you get in the fight you got 12 rounds, you got to do what you got to, to make the adjustments like that [snaps his fingers]. Chazz won’t have the time to go home that night in-between rounds and think about what he wants to do. Pretty much my experience, and his movement, it was good sparring, and then I was doing several different things every day, so it made Seth do a lot of different things. That’s good, because now he’ll be alert, and if Chazz does something different, Seth can adapt.”
Rabotte: “Basically what I do, I know my speed is my gift. People say I’m as fast as or faster than Eddie Chambers. And then my movement is one of my gifts, so what I do is I try to watch Chazz, I try not necessarily to emulate what he does, I just try to do what he does, but only faster. Chazz got a real long jab and good, quick right hand, so I do that, and I do that faster, and when I move I try to move in the way that Chazz would move, but I know I’m a lot faster than Chazz.
“With my foot movement and my ability to move around the ring and still throw punches as quick as I can do, I think when Seth fights Chazz, it’s going to be a lot easier for him because he’s going to be able to see things coming.”
BoxingScene.com: How did Seth handle your speed, Joe, and what you brought to the ring, Donnell?
Rabotte: “He doesn’t want to lose, and he doesn’t want to lose a round. So if I catch him with a quick jab, he’s coming back. If I catch him with a couple of body shots, he’s coming back. You negate speed by smothering. You negate power by smothering. So if I try to be quick and throw a lot of punches, he’ll step to me and hit me hard and make me try to get out of the way.”
Holmes: “I think that Chazz is a good fighter, but I don’t think Chazz is as good a fighter as I am. And I’m not saying that arrogantly. I’m saying that in true belief. And so I think that once Seth gets in there with Chazz, he’s used to my style now because we’ve been here for six weeks, so I think the only little adjustment he’s going to make is a couple rounds, the stuff he was doing to me, or trying on me, he’ll make an adjustment. But once he get dialed in, maybe two rounds, I think Chazz will be a lot easier. I don’t think Chazz is as strong as I am.
“I think that’s going to be the difference. I’ve sparred with a lot of different people, top dogs from Oliver McCall on down to Larry Donald and Owen Beck, and the thing about it is a lot of guys I’ve sparred with have not been as strong as Seth is. Seth is a consistently strong guy.
“A lot of guys come over from football and different sports, and they’re good for maybe three rounds because their promoters or managers are padding their records with guys they know they can beat, because they’re using him as ‘Seth Mitchell, the superstar football player.’ But he’s not that. He’s ‘Seth Mitchell, the good boxer.’ He really can fight. He really has skills. I’m sure he’ll surprise a lot of people with his busy-ness, his work rate, and the thing about it is he wants to do it. He’s hungry, and he has heart.”
BoxingScene.com: What does Seth need to improve on, still?
Holmes: “Just experience. I just see little things here and there, experience-wise. Just relaxing more. I think he’s a little tight on his punches, and that’s not from me. I think he’s just a little tight still. Coming from another sport, I think he’s not still fully relaxed. That’s something I learned myself. I would breathe hard and I’d be tired in fights, and I learned that by being in different camps and watching them and looking at how relaxed they were, that’d come in time. He also told me that he didn’t really have a lot of sparring with different people before, so the more he gets different sparring, that’ll come.”
Rabotte: “If he can not hit me so hard, that’d be good.”
BoxingScene.com: You guys have seen a lot of different fighters. Where do you see Seth going?
Rabotte: “I think at this point, people say there’s not a lot of good heavyweights in America. I think there are: Travis Walker, Mike Mollo can fight, of course Eddie Chambers. I think that Seth is physically strong, mentally capable of success, and some people are not. Where his head is, he just wants to be a good boxer, he wants to do well. That alone is going to propel him to be one of the greatest fighters of our time.”
Holmes: “I judge people according to myself. I know I’m a great boxer, regardless of what other people think or have said. But it doesn’t matter what other people think, and talking to Seth one-on-one, it doesn’t have anything to do with the boxing he does in the gym. He does give 110 percent, but it’s what he believes inside.
“He’s hungry about it, he’s excited about it, and he wants to do it, and that’s what drives me when I get into fights. I fought a lot of guys better than me, but I win because I want it, and I want it more, and that’s how Seth is. That’s what carries a guy to the top, not really their boxing ability, but how bad they want it.”
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@example.com