(Chris Arreola celebrates as Seth Mitchell is halted by the ref; photo credit: Esther Lin, Showtime)
Once-vaunted heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell didn't just fly into the danger zone Saturday on Showtime — he damn near was on a kamikaze mission, signing to fight Chris Arreola, a boxer whose strengths and weaknesses so completely negated Mitchell's strengths and so completely exploited Mitchell's weaknesses. "KO1" was the result.
There's very little "fight" to analyze, because while Mitchell started off strongly enough with power shots, jabs and control of distance, all it took was the first flush right hand from Arreola to render it all moot. Arreola can take a punch, and he can deliver; Mitchell can punch, but cannot take one. Mitchell was on shaky legs after that first right hand, and as he struggled to hold on before Arreola tossed him to the ground in an attempt to free himself up to do more damage. Once Mitchell rose, another right hand dropped him, and though he beat the count, another right hand and a flurry had him turned backwards and defenseless. Referee Jack Reiss appropriately stopped it.
Mitchell had, as he mentioned in the earlier link, seen his thinking about his opponents doubted before, only for him to prove his skeptics wrong. Not this time. Mitchell had the power and athleticism, but not the punch resistance, to become a real contender. He had the character and fearlessness and confidence, but perhaps too much of the latter two qualities, and the poised figure we saw after his first knockout loss to Johnathon Banks was nowhere to be found in an emotional post-fight interview. Unlike with Wladimir Klitschko or Amir Khan or other weak-chinned fighters who have exceptional gifts (Klitschko's height and power, Khan's speed) and figured out how to hide their weaknesss at least for a time, Mitchell is an exceptionally KO-able quantity even by Klitschko/Khan standards with gifts that are nice but not quite as exceptional; it's hard to figure out how he gets back into the mix among boxing's big men.
Arreola's post-fight interview — now that was a classic of the genre. From thanking God to thanking himself — but mainly himself, because God didn't put in the work Arreola did, you see — to saying, "I shoot myself in the leg because I'm a dummy," it was one disarmingly candid, hilarious, non-cliched moment after another, all qualities not to be found in athlete interviews much. I like Mitchell, and was rooting for him, because he's from my area of the country. But I like Arreola plenty, too. He did what he was supposed to do in the ring and was widely expected to Saturday night, and for all his talk of preparing better for this fight, his physique didn't back up his claims. Yet most any version of Arreola contends with most anyone in the heavyweight top 10 not named Klitschko, and all of those fights would likely be entertaining, and the post-fight interviews would be gold, and hey, he probably just got the best win of his career. You opposed to more Arreola? I ain't. Especially if it's against Deontay Wilder in another power-punching shootout, albeit one where the outcome is more mysterious. Arreola, though, was pining for a Bermane Stiverne rematch in the event Vitali Klitschko is stripped of his alphabet belt to decide who gets the vacated title, and I wouldn't be opposed.
The televised undercard bout was a depressing affair marked by moments of fun. Trying to make a comeback from a series of losses, 38-year-old featherweight Rafael Marquez started strong against Efrain Esquivias, bloodying and puffy-ing his opponent's face with stiff jabs and hard left hooks thrown in slow motion, punches that were only landing thanks to Marquez's world class craft, experience and timing. Slow motion isn't usually the right speed in this sport, though, and eventually Esquivias began beating the tar out of Marquez, especially with flush right hands. It was beginning to forecast as a situation where Marquez's trainer needed to throw in the towel, until Marquez staved off the inevitable with a late 7th round flurry that got everyone's hopes up. Marquez was stopped in the very next round, thanks to a straight right hand that forced ref Raul Caiz, Jr. to wave it off.
Great for Esquivias and all to get the win, and he showed grit in overcoming adversity to get it. That said, it was sad to watch one of my all-time faves get punished this way, and I'm almost grateful he lost before he was fed to someone like Leo Santa Cruz or Abner Mares. He said he would consider retirement. That's the obviously right call, only this is boxing and we can't count on a faded great hanging up the gloves when he ought to, or else Marquez would've hung them up even before this loss. Esquivias wants Santa Cruz in Marquez's place, and he just might've done enough to snag a fight like that.