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Q&A: Byron Mitchell

Ed Mulholand

Former two-time super middleweight champion Byron “Gator” Mitchell (28-5-1, 21 KOs) says he’s feeling “super” in final preparations for his showdown with Otis “Triple OG” Griffin. Mitchell and Griffin will square off in the main event of X-Cel Worldwide in association with Bang Productions’ “Hassle at the Castle” boxing benefit gala at Oheka Castle in Huntington, New York on May 7.
Coming off a TKO2 over former champion David Telesco last October, the hard-punching Mitchell is hoping a victory over Griffin will bring him closer to his dream of another world title fight. The 36-year-old Alabama native has won three of four since coming out of semi-retirement and signing a promotional deal with promoter Nick Garone’s X-Cel Worldwide in late 2008. Mitchell’s only loss was a short-notice stoppage to current WBA light heavyweight champion Beibut Shumenov.

Byron, what do you think of your upcoming opponent, Otis Griffin?

He comes to fight, but I don’t think he takes shots very well and I’m a pretty heavy hitter. He will get caught. He can’t afford to make any mistakes at all and coming into the fight, I have an advantage on him. When he found out about the fight, I had already been in camp five weeks with (top super middleweight contender) Andre Dirrell for his fight with Arthur Abraham.

So being around a young, quick fighter has benefitted you?

I have never been in the ring with anybody as quick as Andre Dirrell. He is super quick. I told him he is going to lead me to another world championship. Being in with a guy as young and quick as he is, very few light heavyweights are as agile as he is and as fast as he is. If I can cope with him, I pretty much I can cope with anyone in the division.

If you are able to get past Otis Griffin, what do you think your next move will be?

I want to fight for a world title. Maybe I’ll get that chance before the year is out. I’d love a rematch with Shumenov, who I wasn’t in the gym for but sill went four rounds with — and that was coming straight from the airport to the gym to the fight. I told them I was overweight and they told me it was no big deal and then they made me lose the weight the day of the fight. But I couldn’t pass that fight up. You can’t make that kind of money here in the US. When they told me how much the purse was, I was like ‘Oh my God.’ That was a business decision more than a career choice.

Are you feeling well adjusted to your move up in weight class from super middleweight to light heavyweight?

Light heavyweight is not a step up in weight for me because I fought my whole amateur career at this weight. Light heavyweight is more my natural weight. In the ’96 Olympics, Antonio Tarver had already won the light heavyweight berth on the Olympic team, so I dropped down to attempt to make it as a middleweight. When I decided to turn pro, I only went up to super middle because I was already a middleweight.

You’ve had inactivity due to promotional problems in the past. How has it been working with Nick Garone?

Nick has been wonderful throughout our time together. This guy has more resources than I imagined in the beginning. Working with him has been so much fun. He takes into consideration my family and the things I want to accomplish. To have someone in your corner that actually cares about you is a real pleasure.

* * *

In the main supporting bout, former #1 heavyweight contender “Big” Michael Grant will make his return to the ring. The towering 6′ 7″ Grant (45-3, 33 KOs) is undefeated since 2003 and was last seen scoring a unanimous 12-round decision over the respectable Paul Marinaccio at the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel.

Also scheduled for action are Maryland-based welterweight Emmanuel “Tranzformer” Taylor (6-0, 5 KOs), and Patterson, New Jersey’s Elvin “KoKo” Sanchez (3-0, 3 KOs) and two more fights that are currently TBA.

“Hassle at the Castle” is a benefit gala honoring the Shea Megale Trust for SMA and the Elena Melius Foundation. The all-star celebrity guest list reads like a Hall of Fame induction ceremony directory and includes 1984 Olympic Boxing Team members: Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, Pernell “Sweat Pea” Whitaker, Tyrell Biggs, and Mark Breland, plus Lou Duva, “Gentleman” Gerry Cooney, Burt Sugar, Emile Griffith, “Vicious” Vivian Harris and a Mystery Hall of Famer.

Between bouts, high-fashion models will showcase Carla’s Closet Swimsuits, as seen in 2010 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. A tribute will be held in honor of Lou Duva’s 88th birthday.

Oheka Castle is the second largest residence in the United States. On fight night, doors will open at 6:30 pm. A VIP Meet & Greet will be held from 7:00 to 9:00 and the first bout starts at 7:45. Tickets are priced at General $350 and VIP $500 and are available at www.ringsidenow.com. Open Bar and Hors D’oeuvres are included with VIP ticket purchase. Oheka Castle is located at 135 West Gate Drive in Huntington, New York.




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