Since Seth Mitchell turned professional more than four years ago, the undefeated Brandywine boxer and his team have pointed to late 2013. That’s when they hope one of the sport’s most promising Americans will be ready to challenge for the heavyweight championship of the world.
With that deadline on the horizon, Mitchell figures to have only a few bouts remaining before a potential clash with unified champion Wladimir Klitschko, and the countdown continues on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in storm-ravaged Atlantic City.
That’s where Mitchell is set to put his North American Boxing Organization belt on the line against Johnathon Banks(28-1-1) as the co-main event on a card that features Adrien Broner taking on Antonio DeMarco for DeMarco’s World Boxing Council lightweight championship (HBO, 10 p.m.).
“It would mean a lot to become heavyweight world champion,” Mitchell, 30, said last week during an open workout at his Dream Team gym in Clinton. “It remains to be seen, but I am definitely working hard toward that goal. I’m not trying to underestimate anybody.”
Especially after his last fight that almost cost Mitchell his perfect record (25-0-1, 19 knockouts). On April 28 at Boardwalk Hall, Mitchell nearly went to the canvas in the first round amid a barrage from Chazz Witherspoon, but the former All-Met linebacker from Gwynn Park withstood the knockout bid just long enough for the bell to ring.
With reassurance from trainer Andre Hunter during the intermission, Mitchell retaliated in the second round before finishing the job decisively in the third, when referee Randy Neumann stopped the fight at 2 minutes 31 seconds. It was the 10th consecutive knockout for Mitchell, who dropped Witherspoon (30-3) two times in the third round.
Now Mitchell is heading back to the same venue following the longest layoff of his career for the first major sporting event in Atlantic City since Hurricane Sandy destroyed part of its iconic boardwalk. Sandy also forced a dozen casinos to close for more than four days, resulting in millions of lost revenue; displaced thousands in the state; and affected millions across the Eastern seaboard.
Then, in the days after Sandy, a snowstorm was responsible for another estimated 167,000 new power outages in New Jersey, according to Gov. Chris Christie, who referred to Sandy as “our Katrina.”
Devastation from Sandy initially left some wondering whether Saturday’s fight card would take place as scheduled, but Golden Boy Promotions and city officials decided to proceed. That news came as a relief to Mitchell and his team after his fight went through several previous delays.
“We are hoping the [fight card] will afford people the opportunity to forget their worries for an evening and enjoy this great night of boxing,” Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer said in a statement that also announced a donation of two dollars for every ticket sold and $1,000 for each knockout to the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City.
Mitchell, who visited the Boys & Girls Club on Wednesday to assist with Sandy cleanup efforts, originally was scheduled to fight Banks on July 14 in Las Vegas but withdrew after a visit to the orthopedist revealed a sprained ligament in his right hand. The injury occurred when Mitchell was bearing down on Witherspoon in the third round, and Mitchell since has declared his hand to be healed.
Mitchell then was supposed fight Banks as part of the undercard for Broner’s main event on Oct. 6, but an issue regarding the opponent for the lightweight title contender forced that card to be postponed.
“You’re going to feel better when you know all your fans are going to be there,” Mitchell’s manager, Sharif Salim, said. “We have from what I’ve heard five busloads going up there, so when you have your fans, and we have a lot of fans in the New York/New Jersey area, certainly that helps. It’s familiar turf for us, so we feel very good about that as well. I like that we are back in Atlantic City again.”