For the longest time, the United States claimed ownership of the heavyweight title. The challengers that would travel overseas to vie for the title were sent back empty-handed and beaten up, but times have changed and so has the landscape of heavyweight boxing. The division is now ruled by the Klitschko brothers. Wladimir is one of the most dominant heavyweights of all time and his brother Vitali isn’t that much behind him. Both hail from the Ukraine.
Other recent titlists include Nikolay Valuev (Russia), David Haye (UK), Ruslan Chagaev (Uzbekistan), Alexander Povetkin (Russia) and, of course, Lennox Lewis (UK). The American champions in between the Mike Tyson era and this one did not capture the American public’s imagination. Hasim Rahman, Chris Byrd and John Ruiz were all virtually ignored and quickly disappeared as the Klitschko rule came into effect.
Although the chances are slim, with most of the legitimate contenders not being American, people still have that glimmer of hope that one of fighters from the states will claim the heavyweight crown. With the pickings being so slim, many turned their attention to Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell, a powerful fighter with a good body attack and a great spirit, but he was really just an over-hyped mediocrity. HBO did their best to showcase him against D list heavyweights that he could roll over, but he was exposed when he fought a fighter that had skill and resolve in Johnathon Banks.
On November 17th, 2012, Banks, 29-1-1, 19 KO’s, entered the ring to be the next victim for Mitchell. Despite the good record, Banks was a blown up cruiserweight and struggled to get beyond journeymen big men like Jason Gavern and Nicolai Firtha. A beast like Mitchell, 25-1-1, 19 KO’s, should have made early work of him, but it didn’t happen. The reckless Mitchell attacked and did some good work in round one, but in the second round, it was all over. The pinpoint punches of Banks found their mark and the “next big thing” in American heavyweight boxing was exposed. The derailment of Mitchell’s rise has turned into this rematch. In other words, the wrong guy won.
On Saturday night, Banks will have to be ready. Expect Mitchell to be more careful and look to work the body and impose his size. This is a very interesting fight, but Banks should find his mark again and he knows he can hurt Mitchell. It’s hard to imagine the free-swinging Mitchell can be reformed and turned into a boxer/puncher. He will revert and that will open up the same opportunities and should translate into a similar result but expect it later in the fight.
The Mitchell – Banks II bout will take place on the undercard of Malignaggi-Broner Saturday night. You won’t see the next big thing in American heavyweight boxing, but you should see a very exciting fight for as long as it goes.