LAS VEGAS — Megafights like Saturday night’s showdown between Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto generally bring many of boxing’s biggest names to town. That includes Seth Mitchell, the former Michigan State linebacker and current heavyweight prospect, who last weekend defeated Chazz Witherspoon in a third-round knockout.
Mitchell sat down for a quick conversation with SI.com while in town for Saturday’s fight.
You were a football player. How in the heck did you get into boxing?
I went to Madison Square Garden and saw [Ravens safety] Tom Zbikowski’s pro debut, in 2006. I played against him in college. I thought, ‘if he could do it, I could do it.’ I had no experience. I was a very casual fan. I watched the major fights. I was a Tyson fan growing up. But I didn’t know a lot about it.”
What made you think you would be good at it?
Athletics is my gift. Not sport, athletics. I’ve always stood out when it comes to competing. I only played football for three years, and I was an All-American. My drive, my will, I figured I would have success.
Did you take to it quickly?
The transition from always running sprints to running three and four miles, it’s different. You have to train yourself to go hard for three minutes versus in football, you get a 30-35 second break. And you can’t train to take a punch. That was the toughest part. Playing middle linebacker in football, I was always tight when I would take on and engage those blockers. Where in boxing, you have to relax. It took me sometime to learn to relax in the ring.
You got buzzed pretty good by Witherspoon in that first round, didn’t you?
I was hurt. I had been buzzed three times before, but that time I was hurt. I have to start keeping that left hand up.
Did you learn anything from that?
If you had asked me how I would have reacted before, I would have told you that is how I would react. That I would be OK. But I didn’t know. Now I know I can recover. I know I have that drive and that will. I have to keep that left hand up. I have to keep my head on a swivel.
Where are you seeing improvements?
I think I’m a better body puncher, a better finisher. A lot of times early in my career I would watch tape and I would see in a guys face that I hurt him, but I wouldn’t notice it then. Now, I have a better sense of when I hurt somebody.
If a Klitschko came calling, would you answer the phone?
I’m not going to say I’d take the first opportunity but if a Klitschko offered you $7 or $8 million, would you fight him? I want to be prepared, but this is a business. I don’t want to not be ready. My goals are health, financial security and the belts, in that order. I’m a family man. I have a wife and two children. I absolutely want to be champion, but I don’t want to be a broke champion.
– Chris Mannix