On Nov. 17, former Michigan State University linebacker turned boxer Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell will take what he hopes is the next step in his quest to become a heavyweight champion.
Mitchell will be taking on eight-year pro Johnathon Banks of Detroit, who has served as the primary sparring partner for Wladimir Klitschko for the last five years, in a 12-round matchup on HBO.
Mitchell (25-0-1, 19 KOs), who only took up boxing a little more than five years ago, feels that he should be ready to challenge either WBA (Super)/WBO/IBF/IBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko or WBC heavyweight champ Vitali Klitschko in the not-so-distant future.
“As far as the Klitschkos, I feel that if I continue to get better and no injuries, I would like to have my opportunity to fight for a (world) title in 2013 after three or four more fights," Mitchell said. "With the rest of the heavyweight division, I think that I could compete and do well against the people in the Top 10 fight now.”
While Banks (28-1-1, 18 KOs) is listed at 6'3", Mitchell believes that he will need to face even taller opponents in the future to prepare him for a potential showdown with either of the Ukrainian giants.
“I think that if I want to fight for the title in 2013, I think I should be fighting taller (fighters). I think that is definitely the direction I should go,” Mitchell said.
Perennial heavyweight contender Tony Thompson of Washington, D.C., certainly fits the bill as far as height is concerned, but that is not a fight that Mitchell wants to see happen.
“Tony Thompson has been like my mentor so unless it was for a title shot or a title eliminator, me and him would probably never fight,” Mitchell said. “I got much respect and much love for him, and he’s been like a big brother to me in the sport”
In Europe both Klitschko brothers are huge attractions who sell out stadiums with ease, though Mitchell believes if he does get his shot at either of them, the fight would take place in the U.S.
“Anything could happen, but if the fight were to take place I would like for it to be over here,” said the former Michigan State Spartan.
“I am not saying that I would never go over there (Europe) because anything can happen, but I think it would be a huge draw over here. If I continue to do what I do and their resumes speak for themselves, I would love to fight them over here if that fight took place.”
Mitchell’s name seems to be on the tongue of a lot of fighters, including that of the U.K.’s Tyson Fury.
“All the fighters that are in the Top 10, I feel I am ready for them, and if it makes sense I am definitely willing to fight,” said Mitchell about a potential clash with Fury.
“I am not running from anybody. All I do is train hard. A lot of other fighters keep my name in their mouth, they talk a lot of noise, but I don’t respond to it and I am ready to fight.”
While Mitchell is not opposed to fighting any of the up-and-coming European heavyweights, it most likely won’t be happening on foreign soil, according to the Maryland-based fighter.
Who is the future of the heavyweight division?
“Realistically, at this point in my career, if those fights are going to take place they are going to probably take place over here,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell isn’t the only undefeated American heavyweight making noise in the division.
Deontay Wilder sports an undefeated record of 25-0 with 25 knockouts, albeit against limited competition, and Philadelphia’s Bryant Jennings is also having somewhat of a breakout year with four impressive wins in 2012.
“I like both of them; both of them are good. I think Deontay Wilder with his height, with his athleticism and his power, he’s going to be a tough task for anybody so I like him a lot,” said Mitchell of the undefeated former Olympian.
“Jennings, he’s busy, he has a busy work rate, he moves a lot, he throws good punches and he has a long reach. I like both of them.
“Me and Deontay Wilder we have the same promotional outfit so I think (that fight) might be down the line a little bit, and as far as Bryant Jennings, he has to win a couple of more fights before I think that fight would be likely to happen,” Mitchell added.
The five-year pro has an advantage a lot of other heavyweights don’t—and that’s the backing of boxing juggernauts Al Haymon, Golden Boy Promotions and HBO.
“I will be the first to tell you that I am very fortunate and I am very blessed to have the team that I have.
“I was wet behind the ears when I got into boxing business at almost 25 years old. People can say you were handed this and handed that, but when you get in those situations you have to perform and when you look at my body of work, that’s all I have done. I have just performed and I won,” the former linebacker said.
Fight fans and critics both love the knockout and fighters who seem to look for them. Mitchell has stopped 12 of his last 13 opponents. What make this all the more impressive is that almost every fight has seemingly been a step up in competition.
“I am very grateful that my style resonates with the fans; they enjoy watching me fight,” said Mitchell of the adoration he has received from the boxing public.
“One thing I can say. If you come to watch me fight, win, lose or draw, it’s not going to be a boring fight. I come to fight and I think that I have been blessed with the tools, the speed, the power, the charisma, the athleticism.”
The impact that Mitchell winning the heavyweight crown one day could have on the sport is not lost on the fighter. He understands that boxing goes the way of the heavyweight division.
“I think having an American heavyweight champion would bring back some of the luster in the heavyweight division and in boxing.
“You have a lot of great fighters out there and a lot of times they say heavyweights rule (the sport),” he said. “So if the heavyweights stay down, (boxing) it’s always going to be a little lackluster and I think having an American heavyweight champion would help boost that."
While the heavyweight division isn’t what it was in the 70s or even the 90s, Mitchell is optimistic about the future of the division and his own.
“There are a lot of good fights that can be made in the heavyweight division, and the heavyweight division is starting to build back up,” Mitchell said.
“Hopefully I can continue to win, continue to look impressive and continue to make noise.”
Michael Walters is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.