The Mayhem Train Moves On. Next Stop: Banks

By David Matthew on November 16, 2012
The Mayhem Train Moves On. Next Stop: Banks
This is what boxing, the progressive fusion of civilized savagery, is all about. (Tri Nguyen)

What we also now know, emphatically, is that Seth Mitchell is a boxer—not a football player trying to box…

After Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell’s (25-0-1, 19 KOs) electrifying third round TKO victory over Chazz Witherspoon back in April, we gained higher knowledge on Mitchell as a boxer. We learned, among other things, that Mitchell can be caught and momentarily buckled. That’s not terribly enlightening knowledge in and of itself, seeing as we know that about virtually every boxer who has stepped in the ring, since all of them have been buckled and caught from time to time.

More importantly, we learned about the recuperative abilities of Mitchell, who survived the mayhem that was dished out to him in the form of Witherspoon chopping right hands that cut his legs out from under him in round 1, yet was able to unleash his own mayhem the very next round, en route to completely turning the tables and stopping Chazz just moments later.

That is significant knowledge because it’s rare in the sport. That is, the ability to be legitimately caught, buckled, but to remain composed in the middle of that spine-tingled storm and ride it out. Mitchell rode that storm out with tremendous resiliency. That cannot be taught—but rather is embedded in one’s DNA. Instead of being overly cautious and allowing Witherspoon to jump on him in round 2, Mitchell took the fight to Witherspoon, and showcased world-class heart and desire.

What we also now know, emphatically, is that Seth Mitchell is a boxer—not a football player trying to box. He is boxing, and has established himself such that he has succeeded where other football players have failed, and has distinguished himself from the pack. Mitchell’s work behind the jab is still under-regarded, his reflexive abilities understated, and his instinctual understanding on when to throw certain punches—be it the sweeping left hook or the overhand right—is developing into an appealing proficiency that is fun to watch. Mitchell’s past as a linebacker for Michigan State now feels like a fascinating bullet-point, but has waned under the growing brand of his pugilism and stock as a heavyweight contender. He is the most gifted American heavyweight fighting today, and there is reason to be excited if you’ve been waiting for an authentic and viable challenge to the powers that be in the division.

It’s not just Mitchell’s physical gifts—which are considerable—that make him different. It’s his philosophy and core state of being.

“When I get on my knees (before a fight),” explained Mitchell in a recent interview, “I don’t pray for victory. I pray that God allows me to do the best that I can do—and for my health and my opponent’s health. It’s the hurt business but if somebody can honestly say they want to really hurt somebody and kill them—there’s something wrong with them.”

This extraordinary quality in Mitchell distinguishes him from not just other fighters, but from other human beings. In a sport as brutal as boxing, to be able to possess tremendous courage and a warrior-psyche is essential. The ability to also possess genuine respect for human beings and other fighters is exceptional. This is what boxing—the sweet science—the progressive fusion of civilized savagery, is all about.

Mitchell’s concern for others is remarkable. And this dignified way about going about his business circulates throughout his entire camp. “Seth brings a winning attitude and selflessness to the team,” remarked Lorin Chvotkin of Team Mitchell. Whether it’s posing for photos at a Boys & Girls Club, or genuinely connecting with DC-area youth in social/education settings, Mitchell creates waves of positively charged energy wherever he goes. This is what boxing—the sweet science—the progressive fusion of civilized savagery, is all about. This is what boxing—the sweet science—the progressive fusion of civilized savagery, is all about—and there’s real currency behind that energy.

“It’s very important that we have a high sense of morality and integrity, and fortitude—because we are being noticed, we are being watched,” said Sharif Salim (Mitchell’s manager) in HBO’s brilliantly produced “2 Days” series featuring Mitchell.  “We want to leave an impression so that youngsters in the fight game around the DC area can emulate our program.” Indeed, as Mitchell continues on his ascent within the division, more and more kids will be watching, and Mitchell is a lionized personality for them to look up to.

In a sport where reality can be cold, Team Mitchell certainly understands that the intrigue and energy only continues to gain momentum as long as they win. This reality is well-known by Mitchell himself, who often articulates his mature understanding of the business of boxing, and the fickle nature of the hype surrounding ascending fighters.

Mitchell gets another solid test as he faces Kronk-standout Johnathon Banks (28-1-1, 18 KOs) in Atlantic City on Saturday night. Banks is arguably the most technically skilled fighter that Mitchell has ever faced. Possessing considerable boxing acumen, Banks does everything well, but nothing particularly great. That said, he has a very sneaky short right hand that has clipped many a man. With a competent jab and crafty quickness, Banks is able to box conservatively while piling up points, and is able to pick off overly eager opponents with well-timed counter shots that are thrown with thorough accuracy and precision.

Still, Banks is somewhat of a wild card. Will we see the Banks who showcased surprising power and sturdiness as he knocked out Travis Walker (who himself is similar in size to Mitchell) in 2010—or will he collapse in a firefight as he did in the devastating KO loss he absorbed by being outgunned by Tomasz Adamek in 2009? Alternatively, did those experiences serve to educate Banks on when to try and win a fight on points as opposed to taking the necessary risks needed to stop an opponent?

In the theater of the unexpected, this is what brings us back to the arenas and television sets.

I expect Banks to get off to a very good start, as Mitchell feels him out and attempts to box with Banks until he familiarizes himself with the distance/timing of the fight. As the fight develops, I see Mitchell’s size and strength advantages (he will likely outweigh Banks by 20 pounds on fight night) wearing down Banks, who will be forced to stand and trade in an attempt to mount a reasonable offense to discourage Mitchell from walking him down. However, I see Mitchell’s supreme will and ability to adjust as being the deciding factors in what should prove to be yet another entertaining fight that continues to breathe fresh life into the American heavyweight landscape.

Mitchell faces Banks on Saturday, Nov. 17 in Atlantic City, N.J., on the undercard of the Adrien Broner-Antonio DeMarco card at Boardwalk Hall (HBO, 10:00 PM/ET).

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HBO Boxing: 2 Days: Seth Mitchell



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  1. the thresher 08:37pm, 11/17/2012

    “Banks could very well derail this train.”

    bingo!!!

  2. the thresher 01:08pm, 11/16/2012

    “When I get on my knees (before a fight),” explained Mitchell in a recent interview, “I don’t pray for victory. I pray that God allows me to do the best that I can do—and for my health and my opponent’s health. It’s the hurt business but if somebody can honestly say they want to really hurt somebody and kill them—there’s something wrong with them.”

    I like that.

  3. Don from Prov 07:34am, 11/16/2012

    When someone is buckled as badly as Mitchell was by a fighter who is not known as a puncher, I think that I am being fair when I wonder about SM’s chin.  That said, I like everything else I see in Mitchell and am cheering for him to be a very good fighter.  Anyway, nice write-up Mr. Matthew.

  4. the thresher 07:00am, 11/16/2012

    Banks could very well derail this train.

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