21.02.09 – by James Slater – Last night, in Buffalo, New York, former world champion Byron Mitchell won himself the NABA light-heavyweight title with an exciting TKO win over a very game Zach “Jungle Boy” Walters. The fight was stopped upon recommendation of both Walters’ corner-men and the ringside doctor, who deemed the cuts inside the 28-year-old’s mouth to be too bad for him to continue..
At the time of the stoppage Mitchell was ahead on all three judges’ cards, by margins of 59-54, 58-55,58-55. For the 35-year-old Mitchell the win may well have got him back in line for another run at a major world title. “The Slama from ‘Bama” improved to 27-4-1(20), while Walters, from Duluth, fell to 23-4(18).
The fight was a good one to watch, and the fans at The Convention Centre in Buffalo enjoyed the action. Both men came to fight, and though he was a heavy favourite coming in Mitchell had to earn his wages. Walters got through with some power shots in the early going and earned the former champ’s respect. The tough underdog kept coming, forcing the action with his fans chanting his nickname as they cheered him on.
Mitchell got on top in a big way in the 6th round, as he landed some hard shots that sent Walters into the ropes. Credited with a knockdown, Mitchell was only seconds away from a victory. Though Walters would more than likely have carried on had he been allowed to have, his corner did the right thing. Swallowing his own blood, the younger man would have been at risk had he been allowed out for more.
Afterwards, in a scene reminiscent of what happened after the great Bernard Hopkins beat Kelly Pavlik last year, Mitchell urged the man he’d just beaten not to hang up his gloves – saying he would come and find Walters and beat him with a stick if he did call it a day. Clearly, the fighter known as “Jungle Boy” had more than earned Mitchell’s admiration.
Now having won two light-heavyweight bouts in a row in a comeback that began in November of last year (after having taken a year out after his loss to Richard Hall), the always exciting Mitchell is hoping he will be given another chance to become a world champion. The man who was the first fighter to ever put the great Joe Calzaghe on the deck likely needs another win or two under his belt, before he can look at challenging one of the current belt holders at 175-pounds.
At age 35, and after almost thirteen years as a pro (only 32 bouts though, due to inactive spells), Byron Mitchell has plenty of fight left in him.