“Keep the speed on your jab…He’s throwing that low, left jab, and you can hit him with that one-two. Just time it. But keep the jab going so that he can never get on track with you, alright?
“Keep the speed jab going in his face, and don’t fall in on the shot, because he’s going to grab you every time you fall in, you understand me?” — Trainer Andre Hunter’s between rounds instructions to Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell before he was knocked out in the second round by Johnathon Banks.
Looking back on November’s upset knockout of previously undefeated Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell by Johnathon Banks, which ended Mitchell’s streak of 23 wins with 18 knockouts, both fighters agree that the jab was the key.
For Mitchell, the first round had been a good one, thanks, primarily, to his strategy of working his way forward behind his jab. The mistake, he now understands, is that he abandoned it too swiftly.
Mitchell and Banks will return to the site of their last fight on Feb. 16 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, where they will engage in a rematch to be televised, yet again, on HBO.
In the first fight, Mitchell (25-1-1, 19 knockouts) was coming off consecutive knockout victories over Timur Ibragimov and Chazz Witherspoon. Banks (29-1-1, 19 KOs), however, was fighting only in his tenth bout as a heavyweight.
Although Banks badly wants a rematch with Tomasz Adamek, against whom he suffered his lone defeat in his final bout as a cruiserweight by eighth-round stoppage in February of 2009, he has accepted a return bout that Mitchell has called, “a gift and a curse.”
“I thought I did a good job in the first round, using my jab,” said Mitchell, during the post-fight press conference. “At times, I got a little wild. But at the end of the first round, I thought that my pressure and some of the shots that I had hit him with, he definitely felt. I felt that if the fight had gone about seven or eight rounds, that he would start to wilt from the pressure.”
“But with that being said, I got a little reckless in the second round, because I saw how effective I was in the first round. I might have rushed a little bit and just got wild with my shots, and that was one thing that we worked on religiously was not reaching on him because he’s a counter-puncher, and he can catch you with those shots. He capitalized on it and he finished the job. Kudos to him.”
Banks agreed with Mitchell’s assessment of the first round.
“As far as his jab, I thought Seth Mitchell’s jab was really good,” said Banks. “It was better tonight than it ever has been. I didn’t have a problem with it because I kind of expected him to start jabbing. I just didn’t know if he would start with it or if he would start with power. I expected the pressure and I trained for the pressure. I take my hat off to him because he did so much and he did everything right as far as I’m concerned.”
“He came forward and he came forward behind his jab. That’s what made the fight really difficult, because, you already have a big, strong guy in front of you that can punch, and everyone sees that, and then, he started working behind his jab. So it made it a little difficult, so I had to hurry up and switch up some things that I had initially wanted to do. But I didn’t do it at first because of how he came at me. Once I saw him coming at me with the jab, I had to switch up and do something else.”
RingTV.com caught up to Mitchell for this Q&A in advance of his rematch with Banks.
RingTV.com: What is your assessment of why you did not execute the instructions given to you by Andre Hunter between rounds?
Seth Mitchell: Andre gave great instructions. We had a great game plan going into that fight, man. Like I said, nothing that Johnathon Banks did was a surprise to me.
But people were like, ‘You need a new trainer,’ and, ‘You need a new this or that.’ But my trainer didn’t tell me to go out there and lunge.
He didn’t tell me to go out there and be reckless and be overly aggressive. Sometimes, you’ve got to point the finger at yourself.
You know, I know what we worked on, and one of the main things Andre said was that we’ve got to watch out for his left hook when he’s up against the ropes.
I heard that over, and over, and over again in training camp. But what did I get caught with? This was after I had been hurt and he was up against the ropes, I got caught with the left hook.
You know what I mean? So my trainer, he picked out certain key points that we knew about Johnathon Banks, and he was right on.
But I guess that it’s just a learning experience, because he gave me great instructions. He said to keep the jab in his face, and told me that whenever he got close, that he was going to try to hold me.
Like he said, he told me those things and I just went out there and got over-zealous, and it cost me. So I’ve just got to to better next time.
That’s still a little frustrating man, because Johnathon Banks is a good fighter, but I don’t think that he’s better than me.
SM: When people say that, it’s a little encouraging to know that people have been in this sport and they’ve been knocked down or knocked out and that they can get back up and have tremendous success.
I just try to learn, and at the same time, work on becoming a better fighter. I believe in myself, and I do believe that anybody can get knocked down and get back up and show what they’re made of.
That’s just how I look at it. I know that anybody can be beaten on any given day, and I think that what made me capable of handling this loss a lot better is that I don’t think that I can’t be beat.
I’m confident, but I’m not arrogant. I don’t think that I’m better than everybody. But I’m a sponge, and I continue to try to learn. I know that I can fight, and I know that I have the tools to get better in this sport.
But this was just a learning experience, and you don’t learn, sometimes, until you have that big defeat or that setback in this sport.
I’m not even six years into this boxing game. But I did think, after that round, that maybe I could have gotten back up and finished the round and won the fight.
But you know what? If that would have happened, then, maybe I wouldn’t have learned what I was supposed to learn from this fight.
So, everything happens for a reason, and sometimes, you to get knocked down in order to get better. In my case, I had to get knocked down three times to get better.
That’s just how I look at it. You know, I can laugh at it now, but it was hard. It took me about a week to get over that fight.
I never doubted myself mentally or physically. It was just that that there was that gut-wrenching, sickening feeling in my stomach.
Not wanting to eat and always tossing and turning at night and thinking about it. I felt sick. It took about a week for me to get that out of my system.
RingTV.com: As you break down the mistakes in your loss, how do you balance not making wholesale changes in your game versus tweaking certain aspects?
SM: That’s the tough thing right there. This is the God’s honest truth. As I’m watching the fight, after letting the week pass, and I got that sickening feeling out of my stomach, and everything, I was able to sit back and examine the fight.
I’m like, I’m not arrogant, I’m not boastful, and I don’t think that I can’t be beat, or whatever. But sometimes, when you take a loss like that, I think that God is trying to humble you.
I believe that. I didn’t think that was the case, but I’m sincere when I say that I don’t think that I can’t be beat and that anybody can be beat on any given day.
But I was like, “What does God want me to learn from this?” Anybody that knows me knows that when it’s time to compete, that I’m a pit-bull, and I’m very aggressive.
I have an aggressive nature. So I was like, “What are my strengths?” I’ve got one-punch power in both hands, and I have good stamina. I don’t worry about conditioning when I’m in a fight. So I was like, “What does God want me to learn from this fight?”
RingTV.com: Have you determined what God wants you to learn?
SM: Well, after watching the fight, my balance and my distance was terrible in that fight. Even when I watched the first round, I dominated him in the first round and definitely won the first round.
But there were four or five times in the first round when I was lunging and I was reaching, and he just didn’t capitalize on it. So that’s one of the things that I definitely have to work on. It’s just about being smarter without changing my style, but just being smarter, because that is what got me here.
It’s about you’re enjoying the win, but it’s about entertainment as well, as you know. So I’m a very entertaining fighter, and those were the things that my trainer and I are working on.
Just getting better at the little things. We had a great game plan going into the fight. I knew that I couldn’t go in there reaching and lunging and stuff like that, because he’s a veteran.
Heck, it could have been over in the first round. I just have to be smarter, but the thing is to be smarter and not to change my style so that I’m a totally different fighter and still not appealing to the fans.
So I lost, but I have handled victory with grace, and I am handling this loss with grace. I’m not pointing the finger at anybody but myself. I’ve got to go out there and do better.
Photo by Delane Rouse, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Delane Rouse, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com