When heavyweight Seth Mitchell steps back into the ring June 22 in Brooklyn, New York he’ll not only be facing his recent victorious opponent Jonathon Banks, but also his own doubt.
His uncertainty is understandable.
Has he recovered from the devastating knockout he suffered at the hands of Banks last November?
On that night 28 weeks ago, Mitchell (25-1-1, 19 KOs) came out aggressively. A shot at the heavyweight crown was hanging in the balance. He stunned Banks (29-1-1, 19 KOs), a 2-1 underdog, with a heavy right hand early in the bout. His punching was enough to win the first round.
In round two, Mitchell continued to apply pressure. A hard shot to the body stopped Banks in his tracks.
Mitchell looked to be in control of the fight. As Banks languished on the ropes, Mitchell unloaded a long overhand right. Banks slipped the punch and countered with a left hook that clipped the onrushing Mitchell on the chin. Mitchell seemed to pause before hitting the canvas. He was up at the count of six, but visibly hurt.
The confident Banks felled him again with a four-punch combination. Mitchell bravely hauled himself up once more. He could feel the fight slipping away. His right hand caught only air. Banks soon landed another combination that sent Mitchell to the canvas for the third time in round two.
The referee stopped the bout at 2:37 of the round. Most of the crowd and the HBO announcing team were stunned. Not many had predicted Mitchell would lose.
Nowadays one loss can virtually end a career. It wasn't always that way. Many fighters have suffered the same fate as Mitchell. Some are even Hall of Famers.
In 1944, Eddie Booker stopped future light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore in the eighth round. Four years later, one Leonard Morrow knocked out Moore in the opening stanza. Moore avenged the loss a year later.
Ezzard Charles suffered the same fate as Moore in his 32nd fight as a professional in 1948. Hard-punching Lloyd Marshall finished the soon-to-be heavyweight champion in round eight.
Charles' rival and future champion Jersey Joe Walcott was stopped in round six by Tiger Jack Fox in 1937. Walcott would go on to knock out Charles in 1951 to capture the heavyweight championship of the world.
Mitchell, 30, from Brandywine, Maryland, would scoff at (correctly) any suggestion comparing his career to the aforementioned boxing legends. However, like those men, he deserves a chance to prove his crushing defeat to Banks was an anomaly.
Mitchell spoke about his loss to the media during a recent conference call.
"It was a tough defeat for me," Mitchell said. "Mentally and physically I was fine after the fight, but just experiencing that first loss it was a tough pill to swallow, but I tell people it’s a gift. I’ve been in the game for, actually, yesterday was six years all together, amateur and pro, so I’m learning on the job, but I’m a quick learner and I definitely learned a lot from that fight."
Mitchell asked for a rematch immediately following the fight.
"I just want it to be known that I wanted this rematch," said Mitchell. "It’s not like I was forced into the rematch. Not taking anything away from Johnathon Banks, but I feel that I can beat Johnathon Banks and that’s just the type of person I am. That’s my character. It’s not me being arrogant or anything.
"But I would be lying to you if I didn’t know that this was a vital fight in my career, not to say that it’s a career ending fight, but it definitely would set me back," he added.
The bout was originally scheduled to take place last February until Banks broke his thumb while sparring.
The strength of Mitchell's chin is also a question mark. Last April, Chazz Witherspoon staggered him in the opening stanza before being TKO’d in round three. A fighter’s chin rarely repairs itself. It's either sturdy or vulnerable.
In five days, Mitchell will attempt to cast away most of the doubt that others, and even he, might have about the future of his boxing career.
It’s do or die time.
John J. Raspanti responds to all his emails. Please send all questions and comments to John at: firstname.lastname@example.org