- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Heavyweight Seth Mitchell didn't grow up around boxing like Johnathon Banks, his opponent on Saturday night (HBO, 10 ET/PT) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., did.
Mitchell was a high school football star and then a linebacker at Michigan State. He had his eyes on the NFL, but a knee injury killed that dream and he moved to boxing after graduating from college with a criminal justice degree.
He didn't model himself after any fighter in particular because he was too into football.
"I literally just got involved in boxing six years ago," Mitchell said. "There's nobody that I really looked up to as a fighter, and you probably could ask Johnathon this question and he probably could say, 'Well I used to look up to so and so in boxing,' but that wasn't my thing. I wanted to be a football player. I really looked up and admired and wanted to play like Ray Lewis, middle linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens."
That should come as no surprise because Mitchell (25-0-1, 19 KOs) is from Brandywine, Md., not too far from Baltimore.
"But as a boxer I like a lot of people," Mitchell said. "I watch tape on fights just to pick up different things to add to my boxing craft. My favorite fighter right now is Miguel Cotto."
Banks (28-1-1, 18 KOs) is different. He has been around boxing since he was a teen boxing as an amateur for late trainer Emanuel Steward at his Kronk Gym in Detroit.
Besides looking up to Steward, he looked up to fighters from Detroit, which produced some all-time greats.
"Of course, the guys I looked up to in Detroit [were] Detroit fighters," Banks said. "Joe Louis, he was from Detroit. Sugar Ray Robinson was from Detroit. And of course there was Thomas Hearns."
Banks also mentioned such former Detroit champions such as Milton McCrory, and Hilmer Kenty, the first champion from the Kronk Gym.
"I have to say I looked up to all these guys, and I was able to talk to a majority of these guys," Banks said. "I was able to talk to a lot of different trainers that trained Joe Louis, a lot of different trainers that worked right next to Sugar Ray Robinson. So I was able to talk to a lot of these guys, just get a little techniques or stuff like that, learning different things from a lot of old-school people."