On his 30th birthday, music critic Jon Landau said of a very young Bruce Springsteen after
a nightclub performance in the early-‘70s, “Tonight, I saw rock and roll's
future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”
Promoted by Golden Boy
Promotions from the start of his career and signing with Al Haymon last year,
it was only a matter of time before heavyweight Seth Mitchell would make his
HBO debut. This inevitable event happens this Saturday in Washington DC as
Mitchell will face Timur Ibragimov of Uzbekistan. The fight will be the opener
on HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” card featuring the main event of Amir Khan
vs. DC’s Lamont Peterson.
Mitchell has established
himself as one of the better American heavyweight prospects in years, mowing
through a list of what I call the “usual suspects.” Fighters such as Derek
Bryant, Evans Quinn and Charles Davis lie in the wake of the now 23-0-1 (17)
Mitchell, who’s riding a streak of eight straight knockouts. Having appeared on
Solo Boxeo, ESPN and Showtime, it’s time for Mitchell’s formal introduction to
American fight fans.
What can one expect from
Mitchell? He stays in excellent shape and is not a heavyweight with a sizable
weight range. Mitchell walks around at the 250-pound range and fights between
240 and 245. This is not a fat heavyweight; Mitchell sports a physique
reminiscent of his days as linebacker at Michigan State. He possesses the
talents that are now far too rare among American heavyweights: a good jab, good
footwork, power with both hands and a commitment to working an opponent’s body.
The tools, both tangible and
intangible, are present. Now Mitchell needs rounds- good rounds- and a good,
stiff test. His eight knockouts in 2010 and 2011 limited him to only 18 rounds
over the past two years. While he admits to being “buzzed” by some punches, Mitchell
has never taken a hard clean shot from a top heavyweight. To use a college
football analogy, he’s looked good in his “out of conference” schedule.
Timur Ibragimov represents
Mitchell’s best opponent thus far at 30-3-1 (16) and has never been stopped.
But as Larry Merchant is wont to say, “He’s one big win away from having a big
win,” unless, of course, you count a decision over the aging Oliver McCall last
year as a big win. Yet Ibragimov is quick point out that he believes he did
beat Jean Marc Mormeck last year in that split-decision loss. “I don’t know
what fight the judges were watching.” Ibragimov told Maxboxing.
At age 36, Ibragimov knows
this may be his best and last chance to make a splash in the heavyweight
division. “It’s exactly that,” he admitted. And while other heavyweights turned
down to chance to face Mitchell on the big stage of HBO, Ibragimov jumped at
the opportunity. While acknowledging that Mitchell is a strong, tough fighter, the
Uzbek feels he can use Mitchell’s inexperience in his favor. “I know he doesn’t
have the experience I have and I get stronger as the fight goes on.” He feels
his best chance is to avoid trouble early and take Mitchell into the deep,
unfamiliar territory of the late rounds.
Ibragimov has actually been
in the gym with Mitchell as they both sparred with Tony Thompson (Ibragimov
actually faced Thompson professionally in February of 2007, losing unanimously),
so Ibragimov will climb through the ropes with some knowledge of the
up-and-coming Maryland heavyweight. He also said that having gained experience
dealing with the atmosphere of big fights, he is better able to focus on the
task at hand and not get distracted, as he was in his loss to Calvin Brock.
Mitchell, on the other hand,
is taking nothing for granted. He knows that he needs to start putting the
whole package together and cannot expect to fall back on his superior
athleticism any longer, as he could early in his career. From the moment he was
scheduled to make this HBO debut, originally scheduled for August 27th in San Jose, Mitchell has trained harder than I’d ever seen him train. In a
visit to his gym last Friday on his final day of sparring, I walked in just
after Mitchell had completely rearranged the nose of a sparring partner,
painting the canvas and gym floor with a fresh coat of blood.
Perhaps Ibragimov is making
the best move of his career. Mitchell is largely untested and it remains to be
seen if he can adjust to an opponent during a fight and how Mitchell will
behave when he faces adversity inside the squared circle.
I hope Ibragimov does give
Mitchell some good rounds and I hope Mitchell begins to show the promise many
of us believe is there. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I want Seth Mitchell
to become the next great American heavyweight. Over the past two years, I’ve
become very closely acquainted with him and his team. Mitchell is a very good
man and very easy to cheer for.
I compiled a 20-minute video
about Mitchell that can be seen at Maxboxing’s You Tube channel here:
It may be the only boxing
video ever that includes Herman Cain and Beavis & Butthead.
In talking with Mitchell
over the past couple weeks, it’s safe to say he is mentally prepared for his
coming-out party. He has preached patience and not being reckless in the ring.
He’s looking as fit as I’ve even seen, likely adding a few pounds to come in at
242. Mitchell plans to stick to the “textbook,” as he calls it. Jab, work the
body, move his feet and put together his punches. Boxing 101, it’s still a
class most American heavyweights haven’t passed, much less enrolled in.
Mitchell expects to be the
first to stop Ibragimov, a feeling to which I concur. He is ready for the big
stage. His hand speed combined with his power should force a halt to the action
in around the sixth or seventh round. I’ll say, officially, midway through the
When you combine his
extraordinary physical gifts with a work ethic and desire rarely seen in any
walk of life, the recipe is there for the next great American heavyweight.
Keep your eyes open tonight.
We just might see the future of the heavyweight division in America. His name
is Seth Mitchell.