Seth Mitchell was wobbled by Johnathon Banks, but was never off his feet. That was victory enough for Mitchell, who was knocked out by Banks in their first match. Mitchell made it official with a boring 12-round unanimous decision over Banks before an unhappy crowd at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday night.
Banks (29-2-1, 19 KOs) never seemed inclined to unleash his offense after the fourth round. Banks landed 90 punches in the entire fight and 50 were in the third and fourth rounds when he had Mitchell in trouble, according to CompuBox punch statistics. Judge Waleska Roldon scored it 115-112, judge Mike Ross scored it 117-109 and judge Don Trella scored it 114-112 – all for Mitchell.
“He weathered the storm better this time than next time,” Banks said. “He fought better than I did tonight.”
Mitchell (26-1-1, 19 KOs) didn’t do much to demonstrate that his chin was any stronger than it was against Banks in their first fight on Nov. 17. Banks scored a stunning second-round TKO for the victory. Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko was ringside on Saturday night, rooting for Banks, who took over training him after Emanuel Steward died last year. He must have been salivating at the prospects of meeting Mitchell in the future.
“I felt confident. Banks was looking to counter punch me,” Mitchell said. “I had to be smart and stick to my game plan. I felt I won 8 of 12 rounds. He hurt me in the second round, but I recovered. I was ready roll for 12 rounds. With my stamina I felt I could have gone 15.”
Mitchell had been on a meteoric rise in the heavyweight division before he ran into Banks last Nov. 17. There was a good chance that if he had gotten past Banks he would be meeting one of the Klitschkos this year. But it didn’t happen. With the victory Mitchell took the first step toward rebuilding that bridge to Klitschko.
Mitchell said he had learned from his mistakes in that fight and made all the necessary corrections in preparing for the rematch, which was originally supposed to take place in February but was postponed when Banks sustained a thumb injury.
The action started slowly as both boxers spent the first round feeling each other out. Mitchell picked it up in the second round when he threw an uppercut that caught Banks leaning in and as Banks was going down Mitchell clipped him on the back of the head with another right. Referee Mike Ortega didn’t see the rabbit punch. But Banks complained about it as he scrambled to his feet.
Banks shook it off and came back the next round and wobbled Mitchell with a looping right that caught Mitchell on the temple. That started a series of punches that seem to hurt Mitchell and give him Jell-O legs. By the end of the third round Mitchell looked like was ready to go. As the bell sounded to end the round, Mitchell practically staggered back to his corner. Things did not look promising for Mitchell to finish the fight on his feet.
Mitchell recovered enough to begin boxing again. But Banks holsters his offense, stalking Mitchell and seemingly waiting to land another potential KO shot. The Barclays crowd grew restless and began to boo in the sixth round as neither man seemed inclined to land anything telling. You wondered what Banks’ mentor and trainer, Steward would have said to Banks in the corner following the fifth and sixth rounds. He would have not been happy with Banks’ performance.
Banks woke up from his slumber in the eighth round and landed a three-punch combination to Mitchell’s head that wobbled him again. But Mitchell appeared to shake off the punches better this time and came back firing, pinning Banks on the ropes and working the body in close quarters.
By the 10th round Mitchell had a pretty significant mouse under his right eye, but he was still standing. And based on his performance in the first fight that was a major accomplishment.
The last round was fought under a crescendo of boos that cascaded from the crowd, which had been thrilled by a rock ‘em-sock ‘em super middleweight match between Sakio Bika and Marco Periban before Mitchell and Banks got into the ring. It was not pretty, but for Mitchell, who finished on his feet it was a masterpiece. At least now he can put his nightmare in the past.
Photo: Al Bello-Gettyimages