Mailbag: Mitchell steps into spotlight
With the postponement of the heavyweight title fight in Germany on Saturday between champion Wladimir Klitschko and Jean-Marc Mormeck, the best heavyweight fighting on that night may be, surprise, surprise, an American.
Now, Seth Mitchell has a long way to go before he’s considered elite. But Mitchell, a one-time linebacker at Michigan State, at least has the idea of what people want to see from a big man.
Heavyweight boxing has become a dreadful affair in recent years, largely because the talent is lacking. But even with guys who have some ability, a sense of safety-first fighting pervades the division. There are few attack-oriented heavyweights and, thus, there are few heavyweights that fans want to see.
Mitchell, 29, has much to prove and hasn’t faced anything remotely close to top competition yet. But he at least has the mentality that Americans seem to demand from their heavyweights: He not only comes to fight, he comes to maim and go for the knockout.
He’ll get his first shot at the big-time on Saturday in Washington, D.C., when he takes on fringe contender Timur Ibragimov in an HBO-televised 10-round bout that will serve as an undercard match for the super lightweight title fight between Amir Khan and Lamont Peterson.
“I just honestly try to be the best that I can be and try to accomplish as much as I can in the sport,” said Mitchell, who is 23-0-1 with 17 knockouts. “I just believe my style and the way I fight is creating a lot of buzz. Not only do I look the part – I’m 6-2, 240-plus pounds – but I bring speed and I bring athleticism and I bring the meanness in the ring, and I compete when I’m in the ring. It’s just something that I was born with, something that was innate as far as my competitive edge. “But, with everybody saying that I’m the next ‘Great American,’ hope builds a great accolade, but I don’t let that blow my head up or think too much of myself. I believe in myself and I believe I have the tools and the capability of becoming heavyweight champion of the world. I just continue to just try to work hard and try to be the best that I can so I can provide for my family.”
To provide for his family, he needs to be able to become recognizable enough and skilled enough that he can put himself into title contention. He’s a long way from that, with very few even marginally recognizable names on his record.
But his approach is the kind that will resonate if he has the talent. And while it’s always easy for young heavyweights to say that they want to emulate ex-champion Mike Tyson, it wouldn’t be half bad if Mitchell turned out nearly as good as his favorite fighter.
“Well, if you follow my story, I was a very casual boxing fan, but I was always a big Mike Tyson fan,” Mitchell said. “You couldn’t have told me that Mike Tyson wouldn’t have destroyed any heavyweight who he ever stepped into the ring with. But, as I got more familiar with boxing, I watch a lot of tapes on a lot of fighters. I don’t particularly say I emulate anybody. I just try to do all the fundamentals right. I try to develop a good inside fighting game, a good jab and a good defense. “My favorite fighter today right now is [World Boxing Organization super welterweight champion] Miguel Cotto. I don’t think he’s the best fighter, but I like him because of his demeanor, how he carries himself in the ring as well as outside of the ring, a consummate professional. So he’s my favorite fighter today.”
• Miguel Cotto embraced plenty of the Top Rank executives following his win Saturday over Antonio Margarito at an electric Madison Square Garden, but the question is how to interpret those hugs. Were they goodbye hugs, as most in the industry seem to think, or were they “Hey, you’re my promoter,” hugs, as Top Rank executives Bob Arum and Todd duBoef want to believe. Many in the industry expect Cotto, now officially a free agent, to sign with Golden Boy Promotions.
• There are talks going on at some level for a fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, but this being boxing, it’s never what you think. Mayweather is advised by Al Haymon and has been promoted recently by Golden Boy. Pacquiao is advised by Mike Koncz and promoted by Top Rank. But there are a lot of third parties who are trying to buy out one side or the other and negotiate the deal themselves.
• Knowing Margarito, he’s going to fight on, though the wisest move for him would be retirement. He’s gotten brutally beaten in four of his last five fights. His right eye is now a mess. He’s going to have to jump through hoops every time he fights and he’s made a lot more money and accomplished much more in the sport than a guy with his talent rightly could have expected. He ought to walk away while he still has his eyesight and all of his faculties.
• It wasn’t a bad couple of weeks for Top Rank on the pay-per-view end of things. When the numbers are finally announced, the Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez bout from Nov. 13 will wind up at around 1.5 million sales, the best Pacquiao fight ever and the second-largest non-heavyweight match ever in terms of PPV sales. Saturday’s show between Cotto and Margarito should come in right around 600,000.
• Cesar Rene Cuenca is the No. 1-ranked super lightweight by the WBO. He has a 42-0 record, with one no-contest, but astoundingly, Cuenca has just one knockout. That came in the fourth round against Andres Pablo Villafane.
• One of the negative side effects of Brandon Rios’ failure to make the 135-pound lightweight limit for his World Boxing Association title fight against John Murray on Saturday is that it scuttles for a while plans for a Rios-Yuriorkis Gamboa bout. Gamboa planned to jump from featherweight to lightweight to meet Rios in what would have been an unbelievable action bout. Now, with Rios vacating his title and moving to super lightweight, the fight is off and may potentially never occur.
Kevin, what do you think of Miguel Cotto facing middleweight champion Sergio Martinez next year? I know people might want them to face either Saul “Canelo” Alvarez or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., but I’d rather see Canelo-Chavez in the fight of the future stars. I think Cotto-Martinez would be a great fight maybe at 156 or 157 pounds. What do you think?
I’m always in favor of seeing two great fighters meet, and Cotto and Martinez qualify. But I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense, particularly with Cotto’s promotional status up in the air. If a fight with Manny Pacquiao can’t be made, don’t be shocked if Floyd Mayweather Jr. seeks out Cotto for a fight in 2012.
I have two questions. First, do you think Floyd Mayweather is waiting for Manny Pacquiao to get “old” like Sugar Ray Leonard did with Marvelous Marvin Hagler before getting serious to fight? Second, if Leonard had fought Hagler five years earlier, or in some town other than Las Vegas, would the outcome have been different?
I don’t think Mayweather was waiting for Pacquiao to get old, though after seeing his fight with Marquez on Nov. 13, I have no doubt that Mayweather was salivating to meet the Filipino star. Pacquiao has never been as vulnerable as he looked in that bout and Mayweather knows if he doesn’t get the fight done soon, he may lose the opportunity forever. The fight could still happen if one of them loses in the interim, but it will have far less luster and they’ll each command far less money. As for Leonard, I’ve watched his fight with Hagler many times and keep coming up with a different score each time. It was an extremely close fight that could have gone either way. But there’s no doubt that Hagler had slowed considerably by the time they met and that Leonard saw Hagler’s fight with John “The Beast” Mugabi and realized there was an opportunity awaiting him. If the fight had been five years earlier, I would have favored Hagler, but remember, Leonard was one of the greatest fighters who ever lived, and it is never smart to underestimate a guy with his talent and his ring smarts.
Kevin, your assessment of a potential Vitali Klitschko-David Haye fight is off the mark. Just like Haye had zero intention of putting forth a serious effort against Wladimir Klitschko, he has no intention of doing so against Vitali, either. He’ll be there to cash out a second time. I won’t bother to watch the disgrace that will be his performance. Haye has no serious intention of doing anything other than making sure he doesn’t get hurt and he can walk to the bank. End of story. Haye is a clown. Don’t buy his garbage or try to insinuate that he’ll do anything different this time around.
I can understand why you feel that way, Howard. Haye talked an extraordinary amount prior to meeting Wladimir Klitschko, then went out and did next to nothing. That said, he is a talented fighter; just look at his record in the cruiserweight division. I think something went on prior to that Klitschko fight that we don’t know about and that he’ll perform significantly better against Vitali. Obviously, though, it’s going to be up to Haye to prove it and I understand those who question him greatly.
“I’m OK with him getting most of the attention and being considered the fighter in this fight. The good thing is at the end of the day, we have to get in the ring. We have to do those 12 rounds, if need be. So I’ll get my chance to shine. It’s not really a problem with me. I’m OK with it. I’m comfortable where I’m at right now.” – Lamont Peterson, who challenges Amir “King” Khan on Saturday for the IBF/WBA 140-pound belts, on Khan getting most of the prefight attention despite the fact the bout is in Peterson’s hometown of Washington, D.C.
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