A Second Shot for Sharmba Mitchell

10.31.04 - Interview by Ron DiMichele: Maybe Sharmba Mitchell should get surgery more often. Since going under the knife for the knee injury which led to his Feb. of 2001 seventh round TKO loss to Kostya Tszyu and a thirteen month layoff, the slickster from D.C. has reeled off eight straight victories and captured the IBF Light Welterweight Interim Title. On Nov. 6th at the Glendale Arena in Phoenix, AZ, Mitchell and Tszyu will lock up again with the real IBF title at stake.

“What I had to do is stay busy,” says Sharmba Mitchell from his training site in Los Angeles. “I don’t like layoffs. Layoffs don’t do me any good. Each opponent that I had in front of me, I had to worry about them because each opponent is put in front of me to get in the way of what I want to do. And that’s become undisputed champion of the world.”

Belts or no belts, Kostya Tszyu (30-1-0, 24 KO’s) is recognized as the best junior welterweight on the planet. Any legitimate title claim must go through him. But the Thunder from Down Under has struggled with setbacks of his own. Tszyu injuries have twice postponed a rematch with Mitchell, rendering Tszyu inactive now for almost two years. AND he looked rusty in his LAST fight. In Jan. of 2003 Jesse James Leija got off on Tszyu for the better part of six rounds before finally succumbing to a sixth round TKO. The long layoff will hurt Tszyu, but Sharmba Mitchell will have none of it.

“I don’t think it’s a big advantage,” says Mitchell. “Some people can overcome that, some people can’t. I can’t train or worry about him laying off for two years. I have to think about this fight like he’s been fighting just as regularly as I have.”

Don’t think Sharmba Mitchell (55-3-0, 30 KO’s) has just harvested warm bodies for the past two years. He’s vanquished light welter stalwarts Vince Phillips and Ben Tackie, stopped Carlos Vilches, and won the interim belt from highly-respected Lovemore N’Dou. Recent victories over Michael Stewart and Moises Pedroza (KO2) deliver him to the doorstep of his greatest fistic challenge.

“You won’t see the best out of a person unless you put the best in there with him,” says Mitchell in a tip of the hat to Kostya Tszyu. “It’s like the two words Leonard and Hearns. Leonard and Hagler. That’s the type of role Tszyu plays in my life. This is the match-up for me right now in my division and we’re the two best at it right now.”

The wild card is ring rust. Kostya Tszyu throws rocks, but if the southpaw Mitchell can use his signature ring generalship to stay a step ahead of the Russian Aussie, things could go his way. Sharmba Mitchell must utilize hand speed and deft movement to build an early lead. Tszyu manhandled Mitchell in their first bout, hurling him to the canvas several times and busting up
Mitchell’s face en route to victory. Sharmba must move his head and his feet and avoid risky exchanges to keep clean power shots from Tszyu to an absolute minimum. He must gain Tszyu’s respect, but avoid the temptation to slug it out. It is imperative he maintain concentration in the middle rounds. Against a fighter of Tszyu’s heart, strength, skill and determination, there will be storms to weather, but Tszyu has fought exactly once in two years and his timing will suffer for it. If Sharmba Mitchell is to win, he must capitalize on that deficit and listen to his own advice.

“Physically you can be there,” asserts Sharmba. “But if you’re not there mentally you can forget it.”

Middleweight Champion Bernard Hopkins recently thrust himself into the public eye with a dramatic victory over marquee fighter, Oscar De La Hoya. With a win over Kostya Tszyu, Sharmba Mitchell will not only grab the light welterweight crown, but elevate himself in the eyes of boxing fans and perhaps the greater public.

Mitchell must gut out the late rounds, the championship rounds, to win this fight. Tszyu will have shaken off the ring rust by then and will be looking to surge to a knockout or decision victory. Conditioning and mental discipline are Mitchell’s ticket to closing out this fight. The ‘Little Big Man’ puts his fight strategy in simple terms.

“I’m gonna do me. I’m gonna do what I usually do, which is make people adapt to what I like to do.”

He’s hoping it will be enough.

Many thanks to Sharmba Mitchell for taking the time to chat with Eastside. The Sharmba Mitchell - Kostya Tszyu fight will be held Saturday, Nov. 6th and will be featured on Showtime.

Ron DiMichele's email address is:

Article posted on 31.10.2004

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