Undefeated heavyweight contender and former Michigan State linebacker Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell (25-0-1, 19 KOs) continued his gradual rise up the heavyweight hierarchy with an exciting third-round TKO victory over Philadelphia’s Chazz “The Gentleman” Witherspoon on Saturday night. Fighting on the televised HBO undercard of Chad Dawson’s win over Bernard Hopkins, Mitchell and Witherspoon gave the Atlantic City fans a reason to be excited about heavyweight boxing again.
After being rocked in the first round, Mitchell made a quick turnaround and dominated the fight from the second round until he put Witherspoon away with a thundering right hand in the third.
Mitchell took some time to talk to The Boxing Tribune about a few critical moments in the fight, his on-the-job education, and where he ranks himself among the heavyweight contenders.
Seth Mitchell: Everything’s going well. I’m just maxing and relaxing back at the house with the kids.
BT: That’s cool, man. I wanted to talk to you about your fight this last Saturday. I just got to watch it, actually. You made it through your first firestorm. That first round was probably the biggest test of your career so far. Tell us about that first round.
SM: Yeah, man. That first round was definitely the toughest round of my career. He (Chazz Witherspoon) just came out there and I just started a little flat. But he dictated and all the credit goes to Chazz Witherspoon. He dictated the pace with his jab, and I couldn’t really measure the distance of his jab. He did a good job of feinting with his jab and touching me with his jab. It wasn’t a real “hurting” jab or a punishing jab, but it definitely dictated the pace.
You know, they say if you let somebody dictate with their jab, then the heat comes behind the jab. He was able to catch me with a solid right hand that dazed me. Coherently I was there, I didn’t see double or triple of Chazz Witherspoon, but my legs were a little woozy. I was just thinking to myself, “Keep your composure and when he gets in your vicinity just grab him.” I wasn’t trying to be macho, just survive the first round. But then, bam, another right hand comes and the same thing happens. I was just able to survive the first round.
BT: I noticed that he hit you with a lot of rights early on. Was that because of what you were saying about not being able to measure the distance of his jab?
SM: That, too, but I was bending over at my waist. I was a sitting duck for that right hand, instead of bending at my knees. I was at the perfect position for him to come up — I mean to come over the top with the right hand. So that’s something we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board and look at and try to correct that so I won’t have that same problem in future fights. You know, you’re going to get hit, but it’s not how you get hit, it’s how you react. And I reacted like a champion.
BT: What was going through your mind when you got rocked? I know you’ve never been down before, and that had to get you thinking. What were you thinking at that moment?
SM: I was just thinking to hold, to survive the round, and when he got in my grasp to not stand there and trade with him. I just had to hold a bit and buy some time to get out of the first round. I knew if I got out of the first round I could possibly turn the fight around and dictate the fight with my jab and not let him have as much success with his right hand and with his jab.
BT: Well you made it out and really got things going in the second round. You had a very good round. You had him backing up and fighting off of his back foot. What kind of adjustments did you make going into that second round?
SM: I listened to my corner. My corner told me that I had to use more upper-torso movement. I was too stagnant, just standing in the same position. When he would double his jab I would — when he would feint with his jab, I would duck and stay in the same spot, and he was tagging me.
It was sort of like the right hands that I kept hitting Timur [Ibragimov] with. He did the same thing to me, the same type of position. But I was able to use my movement, and once I got on the inside I noticed my body shots were really affecting him and pushing him back. That was the game plan from there on out. My body shots slowed him down and allowed me to start landing my jab, my brick jab, which is a punishing jab.
I saw every time I connected with it I moved his whole body back. I saw the body language, and that was big for me. It gave me more hunger, more energy to keep digging to the body. I knew that I could eventually finish him off.
BT: Definitely. The body work definitely paid off almost immediately. I know when you scored the knockdown you kind of — well, I don’t like to call a heavyweight’s body punches “shoe shining,” because a heavyweight punch is something else. But you were doing some heavy shoe shining, and you capped it off with the left hook up top. Was the body work something you were looking to help open him up to the head?
SM: I mean, the body shots were just to slow him down. It was effective, and I was just able to let my hands go. I went to the body and went to the head, and when that left hook hit him right on the button, it was electric in there. He went down, but he got back up on 6, so I knew he was buzzed; but I didn’t think he was really hurt because he got up so quick and he wasn’t stumbling around.
I didn’t want to get reckless, and I wanted to keep my composure. I wanted to work and stay behind my jab, and I think I did that. I got him with another barrage of punches that got him a little weary before I was able to finish him off with a hard right hand.
BT: Yeah that was a nice finish. He was out on his feet. One thing I noticed was as the fight wore on you started slipping his right hand and countering with your left hook. Was that something that your trainer pointed out, or was that a midfight adjustment you made on your own?
SM: As far as the left hook?
BT: Yeah, just slipping the punch that he was landing almost at will early on and countering with the left hook. I noticed he was taking real long to bring his right hand back.
SM: Yes, that was definitely something that we worked on. Watching tape on Chazz, we saw that he was open for a left hook, and it was the left hook-right hand that I was supposed to counter with. If you take a close look at the final stoppage when I hit him with the right hand, if I would have come back with my left hook he would have been flat-out on his face.
That’s where I always get frustrated with myself; when I go back my trainer always tells me to finish my combinations. Sometimes I might throw a left hook that might miss, and the right hand could be right there for me. And that was a perfect example. The right hand pretty much put him out on his feet, and if I would have come back with that left hook, it would have been lights out.
BT: You talked about some of the adjustments you made in the fight. As an observer I saw what we just talked about, which is a real quick learning curve. You went from getting rocked in Round 1, to taking over Round 2 and knocking him out in Round 3. Does the quick learning curve in the fight go back to more of what you did, or was it due to Chazz Witherspoon’s mistakes and his willingness to brawl?
SM: I think it’s a little bit of both. If you look at the first round closely, I don’t know Chazz’s punch output in a fight, but I threw 205 punches and he threw 185 punches. Even though he totally dominated the first round, I still put pressure on him and made him fight at a fast pace.
That’s a part of my style. I’ll stay in punching range, and usually I don’t get hit that much, but I did in this fight. I think the pressure that I put on him from Round 1 wore him out. I know I caught him with a good shot, he threw a jab, and I dipped under and caught him with a good uppercut to the body.
And from that point on, that kind of sapped his energy, and I was just a machine from then on. He knew that he was in trouble, and he had to fight to win. I just refuse to lose. That’s why I’m so proud of my performance. When I went back and watched the tape, my will to win was just incredible to me.
BT: Of course. And going back to the quick learning curve in the fight, do you think that describes your career up to this point? You’ve only been boxing for a handful of years after playing football for most of your life.
SM: I definitely do. If you get what I’ve done so far, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but my learning curve is very fast, and I just have to pick up as much as I can as I go. I watch all types of boxers to just pick up what I need to better myself. I think you saw that in this fight, you got a chance to see how I handle adversity. You saw how I attacked the body and how I kept my composure when I was hurt. I didn’t go blow-for-blow, I kept my composure and survived the first round. I think that’s a testament to my character and to how fast I learn.
BT: I think it’s safe to say, and you’d be quick to agree, that you’re learning on the job. Where do you see yourself in the heavyweight division right now?
SM: I see myself as being able to compete with the best there is out there right now. I mean, take away the Klitschkos, they’re still the top of the division. But I think I can compete with the best out there right now. We’ll just see what happens. My team will sit down and we’ll talk about when I get back in the ring. Like I say, it’s not about when you get hit, it’s about how you react when you do.
BT: All right, man. I know you’re busy and I don’t want to take up too much of your time tonight, so I’ll let you get out of here with any closing thoughts or anything you didn’t already get a chance to say.
SM: I just want to thank everybody, all my followers and friends, everybody that had me in their prayers and said prayers for me. I just want to thank them for that, because I needed those prayers, and they really helped me to pull that fight out. Just continue to pray for me, and ask everybody to follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/SethMayhem48) and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SethMitchell).
BT: All right, Seth. Thanks for your time, and I hope we talk again soon.