Lem Satterfield

Exclusive Q&A: Cooney assesses Mitchell, the American heavyweight

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Saturday night, heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell, of Brandywine, Md., scored an HBO-televised, second-round knockout of Timur Ibragimov of Uzbekistan.

Ibragimov (30-4, 1, 22 knockouts) was stopped for the first time as a professional, and Mitchell (24-0-1, 18 KOs) triumphed in his most difficult career bout, doing so before 8,647 fans at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

Click here for live round-by-round blog.

In stopping Ibragimov (30-4, 1, 22 KOs), the 29-year-old Mitchell, who is nicknamed “Mayhem,”  came up with his 22nd straight victory and his 17th knockout during that run.

Mitcchell also sustained his status as America’s best chance at ending its heavyweight championship drought in a division dominated by Ukrainian brothers, THE RING champion Wladimir Klitschko (56-3, 49 KOs) and THE RING’s No. 1-rated Vitali Klitschko (43-2, 40 KOs).

A week earlier, at New York’s Madison Square Garden, former titleholders Evander Holyfield and Larry Holmes, as well as ex-contenders Gerry Cooney and Marvis Frazier discussed the current state of the American athlete in the weight class.

No U.S.-born fighter has held a heavyweight title since 2007, when Shannon Briggs briefly wore the WBO’s strap. In 2006, Hasim Rahman of Baltimore held the WBC belt while the IBF title was held by Chris Byrd.

RingTV.com caught up on Monday to the 55-year-old Cooney, who retired in 1990 with a mark of 28-3, with 24 knockouts, including those in the fourth, first, and, first rounds, respectively, over Jimmy Young, Ron Lyle and Ken Norton.

The 6-foot-6 Cooney was 25 years old with a mark of 25-0 that included 21 stoppages when he lost a clash of unbeatens by 13th-round knockout to Holmes in his failed bid to earn the WBC belt.

Cooney offered his opinion of Mitchell, the Klitschkos and the plight of the American heavyweight.

RingTV.com: What are your thoughts on Seth Mitchell?

Gerry Cooney: I think that he’s a very talented guy, very strong. The only problem is that it may be too late, and he’s very green. He’s okay with that level of a fighter that he fought the other night.

But when you step it up with him, he’s not going to have the time. Every heavyweight has a puncher’s chance, but he just started late.

RingTV.com: How old were you when you fought Holmes?

GC: I was 25 years old.

RingTV.com: Well, Mitchell is where he is, so what does he do from here?

GC: I like him. He’s a good puncher. He’s exiting. He works hard. He’s a humble guy. I like that. But in the pros, you have to have the experience to be able to adapt to any situation.

I really think that he imposed kind of a beating on his guy, and the guy didn’t seem like he really wanted to be there, you know what I mean?

RingTV.com: Well, how does Mitchell get better?

GC: He’s got to pick it up. He’s got to work hard. What is he, 29? So he’s got a lot of ability, but at the top level, he could have problems.

I used to train a guy named Ray Austin. He beat one of Don King’s top guys. So I told him, “now you’re a tough guy, you’re in the top 10, and you’ve got to learn how to fight.”

But he did not want to go for the 10 percent to get a good trainer. You have to have a great teacher. Experience is everything. You’ve got to gain experience, and that takes years.

You can’t just read a book and have experience. It’s from every guy you work with, you pick something up. You find a way how to adapt is what you need to do. It’s the difference between being green and a pro.

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