Brother Sharif Salim has in mind a scenario for unbeaten prospect Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell, the fighter he manages out of Gwynn Park, Md., that would pave the way toward Mitchell’s being a heavyweight champion by as early as this time next year.
Salim’s plan involves both of the Ukrainian Klitschko brothers.
The older of the siblings, Vitali Klitschko (44-2, 40 knockouts), is coming off a unanimous decision over Dereck Chisora in March that represented his 12th straight win and his ninth stoppage during that run. Vitali’s last loss was more than nine years ago by disputed sixth-round technical stoppage (on cuts) to Lennox Lewis in June of 2003.
Vitali, who will next face Manuel Charr (21-0, 11 KOs) on Sept. 8, turned 41 on July 19, and Salim believes that his retirement may soon follow.
Klitschko’s 36-year-old brother, RING champion Wladimir Klitschko (58-3, 51 KOs), recently earned his 16th consecutive win and his 12th stoppage victory during that time. Owner of the IBF, WBA and WBO belts, Wladimir is coming off a sixth-round knockout of Tony “The Tiger” Thompson in a July 7 rematch of his 11th-round stoppage of Thompson in July of 2008.
“My understanding that Vitali Klitschko is about to leave out of the sport, so I think that we would like to be able to really look at fighting for the title that Vitali Klitschko has,” said Salim, referring to retirement for Vitali Klitschko.
“So we’d like to fight for his vacant belt, and then fight the linnear champion, Wladimir, for all of the belts, perhaps some time in late 2013. That would be the ideal plan.”
But first, Mitchell (25-0-1, 19 KOs) must get beyond former Klitschkos’ sparring partner, Johnathon Banks (28-1-1, 18 KOs), against whom Mitchell will be after his 11th straight knockout on Oct. 6 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Mitchell-Banks will be part of a card that will include former WBO junior lightweight beltholder Adrien Broner, and potentially undefeated welterweight puncher Keith Thurman, according to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer.
“I’m excited. Atlantic City is like an extended home. A lot of my family and friends, they can make that drive down to Atlantic City. So I’m excited about it, and it already seems like I’ve been out of the ring for years, even though it’s only been a little over three months,” said Mitchell.
“I tend to stay in fairly good shape, so I’m excited. But tt seems that once they give you that date, your entire mindset is changed and something clicks and I just go into overdrive. So I’m excited and I’m enthused and I’m ready to go out there and perform again.”
Mitchell continues to build his name on the East Coast. Against Banks, Mitchell is returning to the site of his last win, a third-round stoppage of Chazz Witherspoon in April that had followed his second-round knockout of Timur Ibragimov in December in Washington, DC.
“We had a couple of buses going up there to Atlantic City the last time, so now, after what will be a five month wait, it’s going to be crazy. There are going to be so many people going up because the word is spreading around like wildfire. Seth’s home base is really building, but we’re also impressed with how many people from England and Canada are crazy about Seth,” said Salim.
“He is truly building a fan base. It doesn’t hurt that he’s excellent on interviews, and his fight critiques. He’s worked with the Wounded Warrior Program and visited Walter Reed Hospital and he’s gone to Iraq and Kuwait to visit the troops, so he’s building quite a portfolio.”
Mitchell was first scheduled to face Banks on July 14, but was forced to pull out as a result of a strained his right injury. Mitchell-Banks was to be undercard of a junior welterweight matchup during which former IBF and WBA beltholder Amir Khan was knocked out in the fourth round by RING and WBC champion Danny Garcia.
“The hand feels good. Last week, I started back punching with it by hitting the heavy bag and hitting the mits. I’ll probably start sparring in about three weeks from now, and hopefully everything will still feel good,” said Mitchell, admitting that the njury disrupted his building momentum.
“Right now, I have no issues with the hand. I had a pretty big buzz going, and now, I just need to go out there on Oct. 6 and continue to do what I’ve been doing, and that’s to get in there and get the ‘W,’ and, to hopefully get him out of there early.”
That may not be so easy in his clash of 30-year-old with Banks, who is 8-0-1 with four knockouts since being stopped in the eighth round of a cruiserweight bout with current heavyweight contender Tomasz Adamek in February of 2009.
“I know that he’s a crafty guy, but as far as watching tape on him, when we had to postpone my fight, I hadn’t started watching yet. We usually start watching tape about six weeks out,” said Mitchell.
“So I was just about to start watching tape, and then, once I had to postpone it, I haven’t gotten around to watching any tape on him yet. But I’m about to sit down in the next few weeks and start studying him with my trainer Andre Hunter.”
What of the fact that Banks has served as chief sparring partner for the Klitchkos?
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that it motivates me because he’s a Klitschko sparring partner,” said Mitchell. “But he motivates me because he’s next in my way to try to stop me from reaching my ultimate goal of winning a heavyweight title. That’s enough motivation in itself.”
Mitchell is trying to become the first U.S.-born fighter to hold a heavyweight crown since 2007, when Shannon Briggs briefly wore the WBO’s belt. In 2006, Hasim Rahman held the WBC strap while the IBF title was around the waist of Chris Byrd. Puerto Rican-American John Ruiz, the first Latino to win a heavyweight belt, held the WBA title from 2001 to 2005.
Should Mitchell defeat Banks, Salim said that he would like to bring Mitchell back as soon as possible, potentially even on Dec. 15, when Amir Khan is slated to return to the ring, according to Schaefer.
“We would love to fight on Dec. 15,” said Salim. “I understand that Amir Khan has a show on that on Dec. 15. We would love that. A little holiday money never hurts.”
And what if one of the Klitschkos came to Mitchell with an extraordinary deal — would he take it?
“Absolutely. I mean, I’m no dummy, you know what I mean?” said Mitchell. “If the number was right, then it would be hard to turn it down. Not saying that I would jump at it, but it would be hard to turn it down.”
Klitschko-Charr, meanwhile, will be televised on a tape-delayed basis on Sept. 8 prior to HBO’s live broadcast of the clash between RING light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson and RING super middleweight champion Andre Ward from Oracle Arena in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, Calif.
Photos by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Photo by Delane Rouse, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org