Mitchell and Witherspoon Poised for Battle

By David Matthew on April 19, 2012
Mitchell and Witherspoon Poised for Battle
Don’t expect an academic exercise when they square off against each other on April 28th

Both are young African-American heavyweights. Both are college educated. They are around the same age. Both fighters hail from the mid-Atlantic region…

After Wladimir Klitschko’s recent thumping of Jean-Marc Mormeck, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated asked Klitschko whether there were any rising heavyweights that could give him a competitive fight. Interestingly, Wladimir cited Seth Mitchell (24-0-1, 18 KOs) of Brandywine, MD as a fighter on his radar whom he had respect for. True to form, Wladimir has been studying and was likely intrigued when Mitchell blasted out Timur Ibragimov in two rounds a few months ago in front of 12,000 people in Washington, DC.  Timur—a former Olympian and cousin of Sultan Ibragimov (whom incidentally was shutout by Wladimir at Madison Square Garden in 2008)—was a tried and tested tactician who had never been stopped prior to facing Mitchell. This impressed not only the seasoned and cynical experts, but also energized legions of dormant American fight fans that have been awaiting the next wave of American-bred pugilists to whirlwind onto the heavyweight scene.

There was an exciting buzz circulating about the recent teleconference call to promote the upcoming battle set to take place on April 28th at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall when Mitchell faces Philadelphia’s Chazz Witherspoon for the vacant NABO title as the co-featured bout to Hopkins-Dawson II. For Witherspoon (30-2, 22 KOs), this is his third opportunity to transcend tiers and position himself for a title shot. In his two most significant fights to date, he fell short against the slugging Chris Arreola and the tactical Tony Thompson, and the question remains as to whether he can compete at the higher levels. That said, he has put together a string of KO victories and feels that his time is now. People have yet to see me at my best,” said Witherspoon. “Everything is coming together in this fight.” Witherspoon has switched training camps and is now working with Virgil Hunter in Oakland whom he credits for repairing some technical issues in his game.

Asked whether the experience against Arreola and Thompson would help him against Mitchell, Witherspoon explained that what he learned from the Arreola bout was to exercising more poise in the midst of a brawl. That said, Witherspoon insisted that he will succeed where Mitchell’s opponents have failed by not being afraid of Mitchell and by refusing to give ground. “My heart doesn’t pump Kool-Aid. I’m a man’s man and I come to fight. I don’t fear any man.”

For Mitchell, his meteoric continues as whispers have turned into open conversations referring to him as the best American heavyweight fighting today. When asked to comment on this, Mitchell acknowledged the fans but refused to profess himself as the greatest American prospect, instead noting that he is happy to allow his performance to speak for itself. “I’ know Chazz is training hard—I’ve been training hard and am ready to fight,” explained Mitchell. “A lot of people have been asking how I’ll respond to getting hit with a big punch—but they need to understand that I don’t just do this for me. This is how I feed my family.”

Indeed, Mitchell seems to be animated by something greater than self. His love for his family and belief in God is deeply genuine; his warrior spirit clearly apparent. “If you slice me open you find no female dog in me.” Being that this is Mitchell’s first 12-round fight, he was asked about whether conditioning was a concern. “Conditioning is the furthest thing from my mind,” Mitchell said, who noted that he is throwing 250 punches per round in training and will approach 100 total rounds of sparring before his training camp concludes.

While Witherspoon certainly displayed confidence and poise on the call, I left that that the desire, passion, and ethic embedded within Mitchell make him extremely dangerous in the square circle, as his propulsion to the top of the sport seems imminent. Witherspoon will provide a formidable challenge to Mitchell, and possesses considerable class sufficient to give Mitchell the type of test that he must pass in order to find out exactly who he is as a boxer.

With Mitchell’s last nine fights ending by KO, including a quick night of work last December when he needed just five minutes to unleash mayhem on Timur Ibragimov, I asked Mitchell whether there was a part of him that was eager to go the distance and get multi-round experience that might serve him well in the future. Mitchell rebuked this notion with honest pragmatism. “Absolutely not”, he answered Mitchell. “I don’t get paid by the round. I want to end the fight as soon as possible. I prefer to take my punishment in training.” When you watch Mitchell fight his patience is remarkable, as he waits for just the right moment to capitalize on an angle where he can unleash destructive combinations. “It’s not that I’m always looking for the knockout. I’m prepared to box but when my punches start to land, they seem to get out of there quickly.”

There a myriad of interesting similarities and synergies between Mitchell and Witherspoon. Both are young African-American heavyweights. Both are college educated. They are around the same age. Both fighters hail from the mid-Atlantic region. During the teleconference call I got the sense that both men would likely hang and get along quite well if they weren’t getting prepared to trade leather in the coliseum.  It was clear that they had respect for each other as fighters and as men, and as both fighters eloquently provided commentary on topics ranging from politics, to college experience, to community engagement, it was clear that these were two gifted fighters blessed with a plethora of abilities.

But don’t expect an exercise in academic elegance when they square off against each other on April 28th. If you’ve seen their fights, you already know that sooner or later, there will be firefight, and truths will be revealed as to which fighter is animated with the more dynamic warrior spirit.

At last, there is an American heavyweight matchup that has real significance and intrigue.

Seth Mitchell vs. Chazz Witherspoon and Bernard Hopkins vs. Chad Dawson II will be broadcast live on HBO Championship Boxing on April 28, 2012 at 10:15 pm ET.

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