By Marc Livitz: Prior to the evening of November 17, 2012, former Michigan State University linebacker Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell was crashing his way up the heavyweight ranks. He was undefeated and furthermore held an astonishing 75% knockout ratio. Then along came that particular November night at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Few in the boxing know could have possibly imagined the former college football player would run into the pugilistic tree of wisdom in the form of Johnathon Banks. Mitchell was handed his first loss by way of a second round TKO after he tasted the canvas three times in the period.
His opponent was no stranger to competition on either side of the boxing gym. Despite having just a single loss on his resume (a right powerful hand from Tomasz Adamek in the eighth round of their highly competitive February 2009 bout was the end), Banks has also sharpened his boxing tools as a trainer, most notably under the expert eye of the late, great Emanuel Steward. In terms of his time punched as a trainer to the heavyweights certainly his experience gained from multiple years with universally recognized heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko has been worth its weight in gold. Steward tragically passed away shortly before Banks defeated Mitchell.
Although their rematch originally set for February was delayed after Banks sustained a broken right thumb in training, the two combatants will get a chance to become reacquainted once again on June 22 at the newly opened Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York. The scheduled twelve round contest for the NABO & WBC International Heavyweight titles will be televised in the United States on Showtime Championship Boxing as part of the undercard for the also anticipated matchup between Adrien Broner and Paulie Malignaggi.
Defending champion Johnathon Banks and challenger Seth Mitchell each fielded questions this afternoon during an international media conference call. Selected quotes are listed below.
Opening Remarks from Seth Mitchell (25(19)-1(1)-1): “I want to thank my team for this opportunity and to Johnathon Banks to help me avenge this loss. It took me about a week to get over this loss, but I knew that it happened for a reason. I don’t do a lot of talking. I just had to go back to the drawing board and work hard. I watched the fight numerous times and I saw so many mistakes. I have been honing my skills and I’m definitely a better fighter. I just have to go out and show you what I’ve learned. I am very focused and ready. I understand that most fighters don’t often have the chance to come back after a loss to a return on a major network. I will be victorious on June 22.”
Opening Remarks from NABO and WBC International Heavyweight champion Johnathon Banks
( 29(19)-1(1)-1): “There’s not much to say. I wish I hadn’t broken my thumb so we could have fought in February as originally planned. The fight was postponed to June 22, but I am looking forward to this fight. Seth Mitchell is one of the best heavyweights out there. I accept the challenge, as challenges are a part of life. We hope to fill the heavyweight division with excitement once again.”
Johnathon Banks on what he expects to see from Mitchell: “He (Mitchell) never really questions himself. He understood that he lost and so he just wanted to improve. I still the see the same dangerous and powerful heavyweight in front of me. All of his concerns have been put towards correcting his mistakes. I think he’ll be stronger, bigger and ready to take the world by storm again.”
“Mayhem” Mitchell on suffering his first loss as a professional: “I know that some people said that he was hyped up over the death of (Emanuel) Steward. I don’t believe it was a fluke. I know it was me. Still, I know anyone can emerge victorious. I think the pressure is on me. It’s one thing to lose and another to lose to the same fighter twice.”
Banks on desire for a repeat performance and background as a trainer: “I think the pressure’s on me. So many people want to see if I can do it again. As a fighter, my job is to stop him from doing what he wants, just as he has the same job as my opponent. I am not looking through the eyes of a trainer. I left that in Germany with Wladimir Klitschko. I’ll put that hat back on when I get back there.”
Seth’s emotions immediately after his November 2012 loss to Banks: “This is a true story. When I went back into the dressing room, I was devastated. I asked (adviser) Al Haymon how far the loss would set me back and how soon could I get the rematch. I don’t bet with my heart. I bet with my head. He beat me the first time, but I will correct the wrongs this time. I am truly a better fighter.”
Johnathon on having to cancel their February rematch: “I was going to fight with a broken thumb. I don’t like preparing for a fight and then calling it off. I thought about it but my thumb was bandaged up and I tried to train by only using my left hand. It took a call from Wladimir (Klitschko) to convince me to postpone it. It took a while for me to realize the logic because I always feel that I can fight as long as I can walk and talk. I wanted no excuses and no one would have known because I wouldn’t have said anything”.
Mitchell’s take on the difference between his fight with Chazz Witherspoon (where Seth was wobbled) and his three knockdowns suffered against Banks: “(Chazz) Witherspoon allowed me to grab him and that gave me time to recover. Johnathon stepped back and kept his hands moving. That may have been part of his experience. I wasn’t overconfident and I don’t go out there and try to knock off everyone’s head. He did what he was supposed to do.”
Banks on the lessons learned from Emanuel Steward: “I learned so much from Emanuel. Just about everything I have accomplished in boxing is owed to him.”
Seth on what a victory could do for him: “I definitely think that a victory can get me closer, whether it’s a true title shot or a title eliminator. This loss has made me a better fighter. A victory would say a lot against someone who stopped me in the second round of the first fight.”
Johnathon Banks on not getting careless in the ring: “No, I won’t rush out there and immediately start throwing bombs. I think if you intentionally try to go out and land something big, then you may get something big landed on you.”
Each fighter on the refreshing lack of disrespect or trash talk leading up to their rematch:
Banks: “I don’t feel that you need animosity towards an opponent in order to fight them. We both have a job.”
Seth Mitchell: “This is a business. We are both going to prepare. If you take care of what’s important, then everything will be just right.”
June 4, 2013