The date was June 28th, 1997. The fight card featured the much anticipated rematch between Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield and “Iron” Mike Tyson at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. We all know what transpired during the bout is considered one of the most bizarre moments in all of sports and would forever link the two fighters together, the infamous ear bite. What gets lost in that night is the fact that Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. was on the co-main event.
I thought of this card the other day, actually, in a span of two weeks. Seth Mitchell fought on April 28th on the co-main event of the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson rematch and Canelo fought a week later on the May 5th co-main event of the Floyd Mayweather-Miguel Cotto card. This got me thinking of the June 28th card for several reasons. One correlation between these fight cards is Seth Mitchell, who is widely considered the best American Heavyweight prospect and he has been dubbed the savior of the division, at least from an American standpoint. The fact is Mitchell stands in the position that Tyson once stood. Canelo on the other hand is considered the second coming of Chavez Sr. and both he and Mitchell have a heavy burden on their shoulders. The amount of pressure to be the “next” American Heavyweight and the “next” Mexican crossover superstar can be unfair and too demanding.
As for Alvarez, he has some high level talent and presents a difficult matchup for any opponent currently available to him. He and Mitchell, like all boxers, have a ton of personal pressure to succeed; however, the difference is that Mitchell is the only fighter in his particular realm, as opposed to Alvarez who comes from a realm filled with potential superstars. If it isn’t Alvarez that becomes the next Mexico crossover success then there is a plethora of other fighters that could get the job done; whether it is Chavez Jr., Abner Mares or someone else, the fate of Mexico boxing doesn’t rest solely in the hands of Alvarez.
This brings me to Mitchell, a former middle linebacker for Michigan State, who only started his boxing career in 2008. Mitchell, unlike Alvarez, has the weight of an entire country, division, and era on his back. What’s expected of Mitchell is to single handedly revive the sport of boxing through the popularity of the Heavyweight division. Most assume that the troubles of American boxing’s popularity can be blamed on the lack of legitimate Heavyweight fighters in recent years; I suppose completely ignoring the other factors that can be attributed to boxing’s decline is just easier I guess? The truth is, boxing is responsible for boxing’s predicament and not all blame can be placed on the record of Americans vs. Klitschko brothers.
However, if Mitchell were to live up to his high (almost too much to ask for) expectations it would provide some form of life into the sport and perhaps even re-Americanize it a bit. Allow me to lay out the blueprint for Mitchell if he hopes to capture the hearts of the American public: 1) Stay undefeated for the remainder of his career, or at least until he’s old enough to “pass the torch” 2) Beat both Klitschkos because frankly, two is always better than one 3) Build an American rivalry that rivals Ali-Frazier, Deontay Wilder perhaps? 4) Lastly, restore the popularity of boxing back to its prime and save the sport from its negative persecution as well as all the perpetrators who suggest boxing is on its deathbed. Now, is that too much to ask?
The answer, of course it is! To suggest that Mitchell can only be successful if he alone reestablishes boxing’s glory and American Heavyweight dominance is absurd and a complete fallacy. Look, I want him to succeed and I also believe he will develop into a better fighter, making his chances at dethroning a Klitschko more realistic. However, he is the answer to boxing for a completely different reason and it’s unfair to make him a martyr for the “sake” of boxing. Placing too much emphasis on his place in boxing now could seriously derail his aspirations because all we can ask of Mitchell is for him to continue fighting in the entertaining manner he’s been fighting.
That is the real point to all this, Mitchell has been so entertaining in his boxing tenure thus far and it’s so refreshing from an American perspective. Mitchell has produced great fights regardless of division, but keeping the division in mind, he has far exceeded the norm and the comfort level for Heavyweights to just go out there and “be big.” Instead, he alone is shaping the division one fight at a time.
That is what we all must keep into perspective, we all want Mitchell alone to re-shape the Heavyweight division but that task is absurd because it will take multiple fighters to start producing the same kind of performances. What Mitchell is becoming is the “new” old version of Heavyweight boxing, I want him to succeed so that he can be that example and influence on all the kids that are would be NFL football players, and not just draw them to the sport to compete but to show those potential heavies that this is how you get it in and these are the kind of fights expected of you.
Mitchell is a great story to boot, he was a highly touted middle linebacker for the aforementioned Michigan State but because of several knee injuries (which necessitated 7 surgeries) he hung up his cleats for good. His lack of amateur boxing experience is well noted, but what wasn’t apparent to me was the fact that he wasn’t even really that active in football early on; at least not in the way most players are typically bread in their youth and certainly not in the way that correlates with such an impressive college career as Mitchell’s.
Perhaps that’s the secret, starting late in boxing keeps you cleansed from the bureaucracy of it all and allows you to maintain a desire to fight (being a natural athlete with an enormous competitive streak doesn’t hurt either).
Mitchell feels the same and relayed some of those sentiments on a phone conference with thaboxingvoice.com. “When it comes to competing I always excelled and stepped up to the plate. I believe in myself and people may say I haven’t done (enough yet) but I’m confident in my abilities,” said Mitchell.
He also feels strongly that starting boxing later than most has had a positive influence on his career thus far due to the fact that training doesn’t get stale or boring. “You’re never too good to work on the (small things), but I believe the key to my success is working on the smaller things and being a (student of the game).”
This is what I believe separates Mitchell from the pack, his thirst for competition, his eagerness to learn, and his strong convictions in regards to always making a tough fight. Mitchell made it apparent that he isn’t looking to protect the zero on his record and won’t allow his desire to fight the best competition become hindered by “soft” matchmaking. “I know that I can fight and I believe the fighter and the promoter knows when the fighter’s being protected, but I know I can fight. Anybody can lose but I’m secure in my abilities and will always take a (real) fight; win, lose, or draw when you fight Seth Mitchell you’re going to have to fight,” said Mitchell.
I tend to agree and I believe Mitchell, he’ll never go out there trying to jab out a decision; instead Mitchell will use that jab to set up the exciting course his fights usually take. This is what the “draw” will be with Mitchell and perhaps my theory isn’t the majorities but I don’t think he needs a Klitschko.
The fact that by nature he can command entertaining fights from himself tells me that he’ll be that exciting fighter for years to come and over time the general American public will know and love him for that. Remember, Tyson didn’t have to beat the “Klitschko” of his era before he became the draw he was; it was the manner he was winning that captured the imaginations of the fans and not the competition he was facing.
When asked about whether or not he needed a Klitschko to reach that upper echelon in American boxing Mitchell said, “I think I could do it (without fighting the Klitschkos) but I want to fight them. They’re running the Heavyweight division; I want to fight them but I want to do it smart and I want to do it at the right time. I want to test myself and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a Klitschko, it can be whoever has the (lineal) title at the time. There’re people thriving for excitement in the heavyweight division and they’ll know that when you see me fight it’ll be exciting and that’s what will resonate with the fans.”
This is the type of mentality that only furthers my point. Even though it does matter if he becomes a PPV draw that sells out arenas and brings boxing back to its rightful glory, it matters far more if he does it on his terms by turning in exciting fights and that’s the only thing that matters now.
Maybe Seth Mitchell and Canelo Alvarez will never be part of a PPV as epic or financially lucrative as the one headlined by Tyson and co-featured by Chavez? Who cares so long as they continue to produce the kind of fights we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from them. Yet, at the core of things both Tyson and Chavez were must-see attractions and at this point in time so are Mitchell and Alvarez. These fighters represent the best of their professions, maybe not in the tactical sense that mirrors a Floyd Mayweather JR, but in the way a fighter can demand our attention because you know every time they step into that ring it will be pure excitement. It just happens that Mitchell has the chance to do it on the biggest stage in boxing, the Heavyweight division.
Please follow Seth Mitchell on twitter @SethMayhem48 and follow me on twitter @MarioMungia