It’s been said that the best American heavyweight boxers are playing football. Luckily for fans of the sport’s most glamorous division, Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell, a former high school standout in the Washington, D.C., area and Michigan State University linebacker, never achieved his goal of playing in the NFL and now competes in the squared circle.
Many former football players have competed in professional boxing, achieving varying degrees of success.
Brian Minto, a former linebacker at Slippery Rock University, has won some regional heavyweight titles and fought for the WBO cruiserweight title, while some former football players, like Ed “Too Tall” Jones, have been more novelty acts than anything else.
Mitchell is no novelty act.
Since taking up the sport just four months shy of turning 25, Mitchell has displayed the same fierceness in the ring that he once did on the football field.
Now just five years after first stepping into a boxing ring, Mitchell is on the cusp of superstardom. It doesn’t hurt that the former Spartan has aligned himself with three of the most powerful entities in boxing—adviser Al Haymon, Golden Boy Promotions and HBO.
Mitchell (25-0-1, 19 KOs) will have the opportunity to fight on one of the sport’s biggest stages on Nov. 17 when he faces fellow American Johnathon Banks (28-1-1, 18 KOs) of Detroit on HBO. The fight will be Mitchell’s third time on the pay-cable network and his second fight at the famed Boardwalk Hall Arena in Atlantic City.
“It’s like a home away from home,” Mitchell said. “This will be my second time fighting there, and I had a big following the first time I fought there, so I am looking forward to the same turnout. I am excited to go out there and perform for my fans.”
The bout with Banks was originally planned for August but was postponed when it was revealed that Mitchell had injured his right hand in his thrilling knockout over Chazz Witherspoon in April.
“My hand feels good. I have been sparring, and I have hitting the heavy bag and the mitts for the last two months,” Mitchell said. “I was originally supposed to take six to eight weeks off, no contact, and I took 12.”
Although Mitchell was victorious in his last outing, it was not a fight without difficulty. In the first round, Mitchell appeared to be on the verge of suffering his first defeat as a professional when Witherspoon hurt him with a big right hand.
“It was definitely the most trouble I have ever been in,” Mitchell said. “I wouldn’t say I was out on my feet. I recognized that I was hurt; mentally I was thinking, ‘OK, grab on, don’t be too crazy and try and stand there and swing with him.’
“It was more of an equilibrium shot, I never saw, like, triple Chazz Witherspoons or stars. It was just one of those shots, and I had to get my legs back together.”
When faced with that type of adversity, Mitchell appeared to fight like a much more seasoned boxer than his 10 amateur fights would indicate.
Mitchell believes that getting put in that tough situation was good for his development as a fighter and could help him in future.
“I believe in myself. If you had asked how I would respond in that situation, that is exactly how I believe I would have responded,” Mitchell said. “To actually be put in that situation and get through it is definitely a confidence builder.
“I am not saying I want to put myself in that situation again, because I don’t. But if it happens I know I’ve been there before, and I can overcome it. So I think that’s always a good thing and a confidence booster."
It will be nearly six months between fights for Mitchell, which is the longest layoff of his young career. That time away from the ring could be detrimental to the development of the young fighter with nearly no amateur background of which to speak, but Mitchell feels that he will be OK.
“I stayed in the gym, and I have gotten a lot better in my sparring sessions,” Mitchell said of his time away from the ring. “Even while I haven’t been fighting I feel like I have grown, and I am definitely excited to hopefully show my improvement.”
Mitchell realizes that the fight with Banks is an opportunity for Banks to make a name for himself on HBO in front of a wide audience, and he is prepared for what the Detroit fighter will bring.
“I am definitely looking for him to come in in tip-top shape, looking to knock me out,” Mitchell said of his opponent. “It’s going to be a hell of a fight. He’s going to be prepared, I am going to be prepared, but I plan on coming out victorious hands down, without any doubt.
“I don’t predict knockouts, but if I am on my A-game, it will be hard for him to go 10 or 12 rounds.”
Michael Walters is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.