Seth Mitchell: Has the American Heavyweight Already Reached His Ceiling?

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2013

Mitchell may have already reached his ceiling.
Mitchell may have already reached his ceiling.Al Bello/Getty Images

There was a time when the heavyweight division was the glamour division in boxing. 

Heavyweight championship fights were major sports evens with names such as Ali, Frazier, Tyson and Holyfield headlining major cards and eventually big pay-per-views. 

To say that era of heavyweight dominance of the sport is gone would be a gross understatement.

Many point to the lack of any recent legitimate heavyweight contenders from America as a reason for the division's decline.

There have been a great number of recent fighters who have hoped to hold the title of next great American heavyweight—the most recent being former college football star Seth Mitchell.

Mitchell, 30, began his career 25-0-1 with 19 knockouts and holds wins over decent but not great fighters in Timur Ibragimov and and Chazz Witherspoon.

He was supposed to take another step towards a title shot by fighting, and beating, Johnathan Banks in Atlantic City this past November.

Banks, who entered the fight much more respected for his boxing IQ and training abilities than for his fighting skill, was a massive underdog.

He was a stepping stone that was intended to propel the much-bigger Mitchell into a huge fight this year with Wladimir Klitschko for the heavyweight title.

But as often happens in boxing, best laid plans come apart as fast as it takes a big punch to land.

Mitchell started out the fight well, hurting Banks to the body and imposing his physical advantages on the smaller man.

In the second round, Banks came out like a storm, hurting, dropping and stopping Mitchell and leaving a giant cloud over his future ability to be a legitimate heavyweight contender.

The two will fight in a rematch in February, in the same ring as their first fight, and Mitchell will need to have a huge performance to redeem himself.

Now the question remains, even if he should win the rematch, whether Mitchell has already reached his ceiling.

It's important not to overreact when a fighter loses a fight. Boxing is a fickle game, and even light-hitting heavyweights can pack some wallop due to their size.

But all losses are not equal.

And virtually nobody picked Banks, despite their respect for him, to win the fight, much less by knockout in the second round.

Nobody mentioned Banks as anything more than a fringe contender in the heavyweight division. 

Many people argued that Banks, who spent a good portion of his career at cruiserweight, was too undersized and light-hitting to even compete.

Most felt with a loss he would simply retire and take on full-time training responsibilities for fighters, including recognized heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. 

That loss was about as bad a loss as Mitchell could've ever envisioned. And it exposed him as not really ready for the prime time of the heavyweight division.

You can point to his career-long layoff (he hadn't fought in nearly seven months), but a true contender at that stage should beat a fighter the caliber of Johnathan Banks. 

That's just reality. And it's no disrespect to Banks, who fought the right fight and deserves all the rewards that will come his way for winning. 

But if you're Seth Mitchell, and you can't take punches from Johnathan Banks, how can you expect to stand in there with one of the Klitschkos?

The answer is you can't, and Mitchell is out of his depth.