- Michael Woods, Boxing
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Seth Mitchell was touted as the next big thing -- the American version, anyway -- in the heavyweight ranks. The division is starved for someone, anyone, who can challenge the Klitschko brothers, and it was hoped, in the last couple years, that Mitchell, a former Michigan State football player, could be the man to package skills, power and athleticism necessary to test Vitali or Wladimir.
The hope diminished more than somewhat when Mitchell (21-1-1) lost his last bout, against Johnathon Banks, a heavyweight with some skills who had never really advanced beyond the prospect stage. But Banks showed more fire and fury in that November 2012 clash than he had before, steamrolling Mitchell in Round 2 and showing that the touted prospect needed to shore up some holes in his game.
So, Mitchell stepped back, regrouped and worked on his deficiencies against some of the usual suspects, guys on a lesser level than Banks, right?
Mitchell, 31, insisted the Banks bout was a fluke. Offered the chance to prove that to the world, he grabbed it. To his great credit, he demanded an immediate rematch against the man who whupped him. The fight will take place Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
I wondered aloud to Mitchell's trainer, Andre Hunter, if it wouldn't have been wiser to do some remedial work before locking horns again with Banks, the former Emanuel Steward protégé.
"Seth is ready," Hunter told me. "He learned a lot in his last fight. I won't predict what happens at Barclays -- only God knows the future. But he's got the basics. How has fan reaction been to Seth losing and taking the immediate rematch? Fan reaction is fickle. I know he has what it takes to win."
Hunter said he knew that Mitchell could fall in, leave himself open to counters. He was warned, but Banks took advantage. Hunter maintains the hole has been patched. "Banks caught Seth reaching," the trainer said.
Mitchell's manager, Sharif Salim, insists that "there wasn't a whole lot to fix." He allows that bad habits were in evidence in prior fights, but Mitchell has attended to them. "We are deciding the Banks fight was an aberration," Salim said.
Salim, a D.C. resident who was a school principal and now opens charter schools, touts boxing as an avenue to prosperity, or at the least a platform to build character and heart. He sees enough technique and ample character and heart in Mitchell, enough of all of that to gain revenge on Banks.
My take: No matter what happens Saturday, Mitchell deserves a pat on the back for taking on Banks again. If Mitchell loses, his crew will be hammered by know-it-alls who will say he should have backtracked and then hooked up with Banks down the line. For that reason, this undercard scrap is, for more, quite intriguing.