By Kieran Mulvaney
Undefeated heavyweight Seth Mitchell takes on fellow American Chazz Witherspoon in the co-feature to the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson rematch on HBO World Championship Boxing this Saturday. Mitchell hails from Brandywine, Maryland, played linebacker at Michigan State University, graduated college with a criminal justice degree, and didn’t begin boxing until he was 24 years old. After a brief amateur career, he turned professional in 2008, and enters Saturday’s fight with a record of 24-0-1 and a growing tendency to finish fights early: 15 of his 24 victims, including his last nine, have failed to last the distance. His most recent outing was a second round stoppage of Timur Ibragimov in Washington, D.C. in December, on HBO’s last card of 2011.
He spoke with InsideHBOBoxing last week, following a well-attended media day at his Maryland gym.
InsideHBOBoxing: Have you noticed the number of cameras and microphones are increasing as you climb up through the ranks?
Seth Mitchell: I’m definitely aware of it. I don’t let it get me big-headed or cocky or anything, because I realize this is a business thing, that all of this is happening because of what I do in the ring. I have fun with it, but at the same time, I keep everything in perspective.
There is of course an extra expectation because you are an American heavyweight, and this country has been starved of quality heavyweights.
It’s been a while in the heavyweight division since an American has held the belt and represented well, and there’s a lot of buzz, a lot of talk going around about myself. I’m glad that people are choosing me to bring back the American heavyweight division, but I’ll let them say it. I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t feel good. But I know I just have to work hard to continue to get better and that’s what I’m trying to do.
Do you think the fact that you came to the sport a little late – you have an athletic background, but you also have life experience and a college degree – has helped you cope with the attention and keep your focus?
Definitely. A lot of people say, ‘My life is boxing, this is all I know,’ and that truly is not the case for me. Not just having my degree, but going to college, having that experience, getting more cultured, being around different people, and learning and seeing different things, it has definitely helped me out. If boxing were to end for me today, I’d still have something to fall back on, just with the experiences I’ve had in life, so it definitely helped me out.
In the meantime, obviously you’re taking your career step by step, and next up is Chazz Witherspoon. He’s 30-2, and he isn’t by any means somebody to be overlooked.
Chazz is going to come to fight. I’ve studied him, and my trainer has studied him. He has great fundamentals, he has an excellent jab, and he’s not afraid to let his hands go. So I’m expecting a tough fight and I’m excited, and I hope everybody’s going to tune in.
It wasn’t really that long ago that you decided to try boxing and now, here you are, fighting on HBO on the same card as Bernard Hopkins, an all-time great.
I was thinking just the other day, remembering how on July 31 2010, I was the very first fight on the [Juan Manuel] Marquez-[Juan] Diaz card [in Las Vegas]. There were about 100 people in the arena, and about 30 of them were people who had flown down from Maryland to Vegas to watch me fight. And from there to now, being a co-main event on a Hall-of-Famer’s card, it’s truly amazing. I’m very fortunate.