Mitchell calls Banks rematch ‘a gift and a curse’
For a rematch that he called, “vital,” as well as “a gift and a curse,” heavyweight contender Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell is gearing for a Feb. 16 clash with undersized rival Johnathon Banks at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, site of his second-round stoppage loss in November.
“I’m not fooling myself. I know that this is a vital fight for me. But I’m up for the challenge. I wanted this fight. I want it to be known that I wanted this fight, and that I asked my team to get me this rematch. It’s not something where they just threw me into this fight,” said Mitchell (25-1-1, 19 knockouts), who was hammered by 25 power shots and dropped three times in the final round.
“I wanted it. I know that this is a challenge, but I’m up for the challenge. Not to say that what happened the first time was a fluke, even though people say that he caught you with a lucky punch. He did what he was supposed to do, and if I go out there and continue to be off balance and to lunge and things of that nature, and not be patient, then the same thing can happen.”
When Banks (29-1-1, 19 KOs) hurt Mitchell, he was determined not to let his rival off the hook. Mitchell tried to rise after the final knockdown, but referee Eddie Cotton waved an end to the bout.
In victory, Banks rose to 9-0-1 (5 KOs) as a heavyweight, and also ended a streak for Mitchell that had gone for 23 consecutive victories, 18 of which were knockouts, including the past 10 straight.
“I’m excited. I know that this is a big fight. It’s a big fight for my career,” said Mitchell. “Definitely to have another loss, let alone, a back-to-back loss to the same person could definitely be a big setback. I know that’s on the line. But I’m excited. I believe that every fight is a learning experience, and I’m in a situation where it’s a gift and a curse.”
Like Banks, Mitchell is 30, but his experience in the ring pales in comparison.
Banks had long served as a sparring partner for the Ukrainian Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir. Wladimir is the RING, IBF, WBA and WBO champ, and Vitali is the WBC’s beltholder.
In addition, From the age of 15 Banks had been tutored by the late Hall of Fame trainer, Emanuel “Manny” Steward, whose funeral he attended four days prior to defeating Mitchell.
Before his death, Steward charged Banks with preparin Wladimir Klitschko for his unanimous-decision victory over Mariusz Wach on Nov. 10 — a week prior to Banks-Mitchell I.
Mitchell, meanwhile, was once named Maryland’s Defensive Player of the Year at Gwynn Park High in Brandywine, Md., by the Associated Press. Later, he starred as a scholarship linebacker at Michigan State before graduating with a degree in criminal justice.
Mitchell was influenced to box shortly after college.
“I’ve only been boxing for, well, on Jan. 8 of this year, it will have been six years all together, amateur and pro, that I’ve been boxing,” said Mitchell, who was coming off knockout victories over Timur Ibragimov and Chazz Witherspoon before facing Banks.
“But I’ve been able to excel to a high level, and I’ve been able to fight on Showtime and on HBO. I’ve been put in a situation where the stakes are high, and I’m still learning, but nobody has to tell me that I have to learn and to win at the same time if I want to continue to stay on this level.”
“I enjoy fighting on the big stage, and that’s where we’re at,” said Mitchell. “I learned a lot from the fight with Banks, and I believe that that fight taught me a lot and I’m excited to get out there on Feb. 16 and put on a better performance.”
Banks-Mitchell II will be part of a card whose main event will match WBC lightweight beltholder Adrien “The Problem” Broner against Gavin Rees, in addition to an undercard bout featuring Cameroon native Sakio Bika against unbeaten Nikola Sjekloca of Montenegro for the WBC’s interim super middleweight belt.
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]