COMMENTARY | By all accounts, Seth Mitchell (25-0-1, 19) is America's greatest chance at recovering at least a portion of the world heavyweight title. Really, though, he got that designation via process of elimination as American after American has fallen to one of the Klitschko brothers or to the crushing body blow of professional ambivalence.
But can Mitchell carry the burden of being the nation's last dying heavyweight gasp?
The former NCAA football star is a quality athlete and has performed well against low-level opposition, but what, exactly, do people see in Mitchell that would suggest him being able to topple one of the current heavyweight kingpins from the Ukraine? In his last bout, he was wobbled by Chazz Witherspoon and was close to being stopped. To his credit, though, he did make the proper adjustments and came back to stop Witherspoon seconds later.
Mitchell is athletic, has fairly heavy hands, and has shown an ability to think on his feet. He's also 30-years-old and just barely starting to face opposition above the no-hoper, club fighter level.
This Saturday, Mitchell faces Johnathon Banks in, arguably, his toughest test to date. But, with only Timur Ibragimov and Witherspoon on his resume behind Banks, it's hard to justify Mitchell as a main stage fighter. He's definitely on that road and may lead the current crop of American big men, but in a just world where rankings weren't made by sanctioning body crooks or boxing media nerds, Mitchell doesn't yet deserve a top ten ranking. So, his status as the savior of the American heavyweight scene is not as guaranteed as many would like to think.
The question, then, would be-- If not Mitchell, who?
To say that the American heavyweight scene is a barren landscape would be an insult to all things barren.
Chris Arreola (35-2, 30 KOs) is heavy-handed and entertaining, but he seems closer to being a charismatic Joe Hipp than a Mexican-American heavyweight Cinderella story. His one-sided loss to Vitali Klitschko in 2009 affirmed his second-tier status and, since then, he has done little to augment his game despite now being set for a WBC eliminator against Bermane Stiverne.
Franklin Lawrence (18-2-2, 13 KOs) has been moving up the rankings against marginal opposition, but appears to be more Marvis Frazier than Joe Frazier.
Tony Thompson (36-3, 24 KOs) is 40 and has now been beaten twice by Wladimir Klitschko. Eddie Chambers (36-3, 18 KOs) has bought a Stairmaster and will try to compete at the cruiserweight limit. Former cruserweight champ, Steve Cunningham (25-4, 12 KOs) has beefed up to heavyweight and will be facing Tomasz Adamek in a rematch of a 2008 split decision loss. The 36-year.old Cunningham is talented and athletic, but his ability to handle a heavyweight punch is still very much in doubt. Johnathon Banks (28-1-1, 18 KOs) will be fighting Seth Mitchell this Saturday, but has been a tremendously protected property since moving up from cruiserweight. "Kingpin" Kevin Johnson (28-2-1, 13 KOs) has a big mouth, a sharp jab, and not much else, but will get a chance to prove that assessment wrong in December when he faces the UK's Tyson Fury. Tor Hamer has a cool name and recently won the UK's Prizefighter tournament (beating Kevin Johnson in the final round), but seems to be firmly set on the club circuit and has shown no signs of boosting the level of his opposition.
Below these fighters, Olympic bronze medalist, Deontay Wilder (25-0, 25 KOs) has looked like a proud warrior dominating a land of pudgy commoners and is only recently starting to find opposition with a pulse. Bryant Jennings (15-0, 7 KOs) has scored a couple of quality wins, but is still far away from being a heavyweight elite. The 40-year-old Michael Grant (48-4, 36 KOs) is tall and has a name...that is all.
Sadly, unless one of the above mentioned fighters catches fire, Seth Mitchell just may be America's last great hope. For better or worse and whether he's ready or not, the weight of the division is being put on his shoulders.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
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