- - Thursday, November 15, 2012

The word “Spartan” spans the back of the waistband on the black velvet shorts that sag from the chiseled man’s slim, muscular waist. “Mitchell” is printed on the front of the waistband and a No. 48 is on the side in Michigan State green.

No, these aren’t Michigan State’s new football uniforms. Instead, they are the boxing trunks of 30-year-old Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell, and each carefully chosen detail is like a chapter in the story of a fearless linebacker, a dedicated family man, a second chance and how one man’s unfortunate injury could become the twist of fate that brings the heavyweight championship of the world back to the United States.

‘Sardines for Dinner’

Under the cover of darkness, the young Seth Mitchell grabbed a garden hose from his backyard and hustled over to his neighbor’s faucet. He hastily fastened the hose to the nozzle, regretting that he had to steal something that even his poorest neighbors took for granted. But what choice did he have? The unpaid bills kept piling up, and just as his family finally scrounged together enough cash to get the lights turned back on, the water company came knocking at the door to shut off the valve.

Such was life for a young Seth Mitchell. The man they would later call “Mayhem” for what he dished out in the ring grew up surrounded by the mayhem of drugs, poverty and abuse. One month his family would be without lights. The next: no water. “Biggie Smalls wrote a song with the lyrics ‘eating sardines for dinner,’” Mitchell said. “I lived that.”

Seth "Mayhem" Mitchell was on his way to becoming a football player when an MCL tear and seven surgeries made him decide to hang up his cleats for good. (Mike DeFabo/Special to The Washington Times)
Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell was on his way to becoming a football player ... more >

The young boy could deal with the struggle. In fact, it became his source of strength. Cooking on a kerosene stove, stealing water and shivering through winter nights without electricity molded Mitchell into a humbled individual and taught him to appreciate the little he did have. But he could never learn to accept was the abuse his mother suffered at the hand of his father. 

“Asking me to look back at my childhood and the things that hurt the most or were the most frightening, it would hands down be the abuse that my mom would take,” Mitchell said. “Without question.”

Mitchell makes the analogy of children that grow up surrounded by alcohol. Some kids see their parents with empty bottles and drunken nights and grow up to become alcoholics themselves.

“Or you run away and stay as far away from alcohol as possible,” Mitchell said.

He chose the second path. His Twitter account, @SethMayhem48, defines the man as a “Christian, Family Man” first and foremost before “Professional boxer, Michigan State Spartan, Gwynn Park Yellow Jacket, #48.” He would never lay a finger on his wife Danielle; never make his two children — 6-year-old Aurielle and 15-month-old Austin — suffer the way he did as a child.

Number 48

The visiting team’s offense meticulously moved the ball down Gwynn Park High School’s home turf on a Friday night late in the season. They picked up first downs and momentum 10 yards at a time, as the game clock crept slowly toward the final horn.

“We’re going to score on y’all,” the players taunted.

Never mind the fact that the outcome of the game was decided long ago, with Gwynn Park holding a commanding lead — this possession was about pride. Gwynn Park had gone nearly the entire season without allowing a touchdown on its home field, and it wasn’t about to start tonight, even if it took a goal-line stand.

“They weren’t even worried about winning the game,” Mitchell said. “Because they knew that wasn’t going to happen. A big thing for them was just to score on us.”

Story Continues →