By: Marc Livitz
The Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey has seen more than its fair share of memorable evenings within the ring. On February 16, Golden Boy Promotions will most certainly have high hopes that the action packed card featuring the likes of WBC Lightweight champion Adrien "The Problem" Broner and the newly crowned NABO and WBC International Heavyweight titleholder, Johnathon Banks will produce the same type of fireworks.
The undefeated rising star Broner (25(21)-0) will face off with former world titlist Gavin Rees (37(18)-1(1)-1), while Banks (29(19)-1(1)-1) will take part in a rematch against the fighter whom he knocked out in a second round upset last November, Seth Mitchell (25(19)-1(1)-1). The fighters graciously took time out of their busy respective schedules today to share their thoughts on an international media conference call. The fight card will air in the United States on HBO.
Boxing legend Oscar de la Hoya (President of Golden Boy Promotions) briefly took to the line to express his sincere gratitude towards the people of Atlantic City. The aforementioned fight card from November resulted in monetary assistance being delivered to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
"We’re extremely excited to return to Atlantic City, where first and foremost we were able to raise a lot of money which we donated to the Boys and Girls Club. The main event should be a great one and the co-main event should be just the same. "
Seth "Mayhem" Mitchell is a former linebacker at Michigan State University. While the heavyweight class has in recent years been more than dominated by Europeans (most notably the Klitschko brothers), it was Mitchell among others who had been perhaps touted as the next potential great American heavyweight. He turned pro in 2008 after a brief amateur career and blazed his way to an undefeated record. Then along came the night of November 17, 2012. Mitchell ran face first into Johnathon Banks, who himself had been spending his days as a trainer for Wladimir Klitschko. Seth was knocked down three times in the second round and the fight was stopped shortly thereafter. He spoke of his feelings in regard to the rematch with Banks and how the first defeat of his career sat and began to stew within him.
"Happy new year, everyone. I’d like to say thanks to my team, Al Haymon, HBO and Golden Boy Promotions. I’d like to thank Johnathon Banks for accepting the rematch. It was a tough experience and a tough pill to swallow. I’m learning on the job, but I am a quick learner. I am excited for this fight. I have been training very hard and I am focused. I am looking forward to a different outcome, even though it’s the same opponent and the same venue. We had a great game plan, but when I watched the fight tape, I saw that my balance and distance was terrible. It was a lesson. Sometimes you have to get knocked down to grow. In my case, it was being knocked down three times. Naturally, when it comes to aggression, I am a pit bull. I have to learn how to channel that aggression."
He was quick to add the overall feeling of a letdown when he added, "For around two days, I really could not believe it. In some ways, it was better for me that it ended quickly. Thanks to Johnathon, I didn’t enjoy my Thanksgiving. I had a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. "
At times, the world of professional boxing has too much scrutiny placed upon this loss column, most notably the first severe loss of a fighter’s career. Maryland boxer Seth Mitchell lives for the pressure.
"I like to be in a high stakes game. When I spoke to Al (Haymon) after the loss, I asked him how much it would set me back and when I could get a rematch. I wanted this fight. I wasn’t forced into anything. I’d be lying if I said that this wasn’t a fight that could set me back if I lost again. I am learning, but I have to learn and win at the same time. I want to get this awful taste out of my mouth. This is what I do to support my family and I have to continue to win. It’s not necessarily redemption. I don’t get too high on praise and I don’t listen to much of the criticism. I believe in myself and I want to right this wrong."
Seth indicated that he felt no desire to endorse the trend of calling it quits after a tough loss, especially so early in his career and at the age of 30. He stated that he had no issues when the time came to return to the gym and resume his training.
"It wasn’t hard at all. I have been boxing for six years now and I have never been out of the gym for more than three weeks. I am always in shape when I get into the ring and I never underestimate my opponent. We’ve been focusing on some technical issues such as my balance. I feel that people will see a different Seth on the (February) 16th. I never considered quitting. The heavyweight division is always tough. One punch can end it. Even though I felt I won the first round, I was so very upset with my performance. Eventually, my mistakes caught up with me. All of the reaching and the lunging on my part was so foolish. I think that my technique was so bad that night that I feel that just about anyone could have beaten me if they fought correctly."
Mitchell stressed that he is working hard at correcting the mistakes which cost him so dearly in his last fight. Said "Mayhem" Mitchell, "If you don’t see shots coming the way I did, then the punches will affect you a lot more. My eyes weren’t on my target. I was leaning way too much and my legs were spaced so far apart. I can’t let it bother me. I’m just trying to get better."
Detroit native Johnathon Banks had some things to say as well. He seemed to be enthusiastic about the idea of a return match with the fighter whom he so easily defeated last November.
"I look forward to the fight on February 16 on HBO. As always, my hat goes off to Seth Mitchell. He always shows a lot of character, which is something many fighters do not do. I know he will be looking to come back stronger than before and I’ll be ready for him."
Although Banks had initially hoped that his resounding win over Mitchell would immediately lead to a major title shot, he did acknowledge the fact that Seth Mitchell was well within his rights to exercise the rematch clause of which both sides had agreed. Said Banks, "I wanted to move on to something different, but you have to go with what is in black and white. He had the rematch clause. I would’ve done the same thing if I was in his position. I knew going into the fight just who I was facing. He’s relentless and he was going for the victory. I have no resentment. "
Seth Mitchell is not the first football player to turn to boxing. Still, many boxing writers and fans alike felt that the former linebacker was exposed by a tested fighter. Johnathon Banks does not agree.
"I didn’t see any inexperience the way that so many others did. It doesn’t matter because I can always get caught with the right punch at the right time. He’s a big heavyweight who can punch. We know that he’s a top level guy and that he is looking to correct his mistakes. I’ll have to take a different approach as well."
The evening’s main event will showcase a matchup between unbeaten WBC lightweight champion Adrien "The Problem" Broner of Cincinnati, Ohio and Welsh fighter Gavin "The Rock" Rees. The two boxers greeted each other well. Rees knows his task on February 16th may be the toughest of his career.
"I’m looking forward to putting on a good show. Adrien’s a massively talented fighter, so I’m getting prepared for a big test."
Broner has been known to never mix his words or miss an opportunity to openly boast about his abilities. Said Adrien, "Everyone knows what to expect. I’m fighting someone who usually fights at 140. Everyone comes to win and I’ll train as I always do: as if this is the biggest and last fight of my life. I’m a two time world champion at the age of 23. I don’t know much about him, but I hope he brings his "A" game. I can stand in front of a guy and not get hit. I can do it all. I can brawl and I can bang and people don’t hit me that much."
Rees has only loss on his resume, which took place nearly five years ago. He lost via twelfth round TKO to Andriy Kotelnyk. He spoke about how the defeat affected him and even better how it caused him to stop living his hard partying lifestyle.
"I am a bit of a come forward fighter. I can mix it up and do whatever it takes to win. After my first loss, I took better control of my life. I will fight anyone. I know he’s a great fighter, but I am confident in my game plan. My last two performances were the best of my career. I now live the life of a true fighter. It wasn’t always that way, but I turned it around. Adrien’s a great kid and I have watched lots of videos of him. I’m glad he gave me this chance."
He further indicated that the love of life in the ring is what drives him. He jumped at the chance to face a world class talent like Broner.
"As soon as they said his name, I didn’t care about the money. Fight first and money second. I’ll get the recognition I deserve."
Adrien Broner recently moved up to lightweight and scored an impressive knockout win over Antonio DeMarco, who himself at the time was seen as Broner’s toughest test to date. "The Problem" handled him with ease and so naturally in the minds of many, questions arose about whether or not Broner would make another jump in weight. He indicated that the junior welterweight division is an enticing thought, but that it would have to wait for now.
"People have now seen me dominate at 130 and 135 (lbs). They want me to just automatically go up to 140.There’s still a lot of great fights for me at 135. Then I can move up to 140 and crush their dreams, too. I just fight whoever they put in front of me. I don’t pick my fights. Sometimes I don’t know who my opponent is until a few weeks out. He (Rees) has a hell of a record as a professional. I take chances because I believe in myself. "
The Cincinnati native further stressed in his own unique fashion that he will be prepared for whatever his opponent brings. Rees is not known in the United States to the same degree as Broner, but Adrien sees no advantage in this fact.
"Whatever he brings, I’ll be waiting for him. My main focus is to just stay sharp and to be mentally and physically prepared for this fight. No fight is a stepping stone because any fight could be your last. Let me make this clear to everyone. I train hard. I don’t know much about Gavin Rees and that actually makes him more dangerous. It’s not arrogance. It’s the truth. Whoever gets into the ring with me will see that I put it all on the line. I want to be the best to have ever laced up the gloves."
His Welsh opponent finished the call with the following statements.
"It makes no difference to me. I’m ready for whatever he brings. He has a brilliant guard, jab and excellent speed. His last opponent had no footwork and didn’t move his head. But Adrien’s has openings of his own that we’ve seen on film. We will certainly take him to task. The sixteenth of February will put my name on the world map."
Broner signed off with even fewer words for the man he will face next month. Rees will be fighting for the first time in the United States and only the second time outside of the United Kingdom.
"Gavin, welcome to America."