- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 9, 2002

Sharmba Mitchell is 32 years old, but he has been at more crossroads in his boxing career than a blues singer in Mississippi. Tonight in Oklahoma City, Okla., the Takoma Park native stands at another, this time facing veteran Vince Phillips in a junior welterweight bout.
The matchup on Showtime between Mitchell (49-3, 29 knockouts) and Phillips (44-6-1, 32 knockouts) features two former 140-pound world champions hoping a win leads to a fight against undisputed junior welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu. There also has been talk that the winner could face the winner of the Nov.23 bout between Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward.
Mitchell, the former World Boxing Association champ, lost his belt to Tszyu in February 2001 when the fight was stopped in the seventh round. Mitchell suffered torn knee ligaments in training for the fight and essentially was moving around on one leg against Tszyu. Still, Mitchell fought Tszyu even for much of the fight and has been looking for a rematch since.
Phillips defeated Tszyu in 1997 in 10 rounds to win the International Boxing Federation junior welterweight title. He lost the belt nearly two years later to Terronn Millet in five rounds. In 1995, Mitchell stopped Millett in one round.
"I have someone in front of me that has the same experience," Mitchell said. "He is someone that will pick me up to the next plateau."
Mitchell had knee surgery after the Tszyu fight and took nearly a year to return to the ring. He has won both of his fights since, including a 10-round decision over Frank Houghtaling on July 2 at the Lincoln Theater in the District. There have been questions whether Mitchell has fully recovered from his knee problems. Mitchell has admitted it is not 100 percent, but he said he is ready for tonight's fight.
"My knee is as good as it has been and is going to get: about 80 percent," Mitchell said. "My hands are fine. I know I will go into the ring clear-headed with just one thing on my mind, and that is winning."
Mitchell, a left-hander, is counting on his speed to counter Phillips' punching power.
"Phillips will have to adjust to me," Mitchell said. "I will not have to adapt to him."
Phillips said he believes sooner or later he will corner Mitchell and will be too powerful to stop.
"I appreciate that Sharmba Mitchell is willing to fight me," Phillips said. "There is no one else out there that wants to fight either of us. Mitchell at his best is a good boxer and a good mover, but at my best I am a destroyer. Whether he runs or slugs is not a concern because it will not matter in the end."
Mitchell won the WBA title in October 1998 with a decision over title holder Khalid Rahilou in Paris. He defended the title four times before losing it to Tszyu, the IBF junior welterweight champion who went on to become the undisputed champion when he defeated World Boxing Council title holder Zab Judah.

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