Dickerson Center program helps residents learn how to fight, get fit
BY JAMES HARPER
Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Pinklin Thomas, Oliver McCall, Tony Tucker and Alex Stewart. There was Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Sonny Liston, Michael Spinks and Joe Frazier.
These are some of the boxing world’s greatest. One name that is missing from the list is Gerald Mitchell. If you ask him, he should be there.
Mitchell was born and raised in Daytona Beach. He has been fighting since he was five years old.
Compared to Tyson
“Back then, people wanted to fight me. I never started a fight in my life. I grew up with a poor spoon, not a silver one. People used to pick at me, and I was not one to take the picking. I’ve been knocking guys out since the third grade,” said Mitchell, who went to Mainland High School where he played football. He would eventually transition to boxing.
In the early 1990s, he was being compared to Mike Tyson.
Unlike the aforementioned boxers, even though he sparred and met many of them in person, Mitchell, who is 46, didn’t get the breaks they did.
He had a 9-2 amateur career that included two Florida Golden Glove titles and a Michigan Golden Gloves title. Mitchell was 20-2 with 18 knocks as a professional.
Signed by Don King
At one point in his boxing career, he was called to meet with boxing promoter Don King. It’s an exchange Mitchell said he will never forget.
“He invited me to his office in Delray Beach. He was looking at me. He said to me, ‘I don’t like you, but I’ve been watching. I’m going to sign you because I know you can fight,’” Mitchell recalled King saying to him.
King would line Mitchell up for a couple of fights but would mostly use him as a sparring partner for his more well-known fighters.
One of those fighters Mitchell sparred against was heavyweight boxer Oliver “The Atomic Bull” McCall, best known for winning the WBC heavyweight title in 1994, scoring an upset knockout victory over Lennox Lewis.
A year before that match, during a sparring session, Mitchell ended up knocking out McCall.
The next thing Mitchell knew he was told to pack his bags and was sent back to Daytona Beach.
Mitchell said he was led to believe if he did his best he would be McCall’s permanent sparring partner.
He would later be told by someone he wasn’t hired because “they can’t have you embarrassing him (McCall) in front of the press.”
Mitchell would get another chance to land a sparring job against boxing champion Arthur Williams. Again, the same thing happened. Mitchell knocked him out while sparring and again was told to pack his bags and go home.
Nobody to fight
Mitchell said he was advised to not come out so aggressive when sparring.
“The man in me couldn’t do that. I couldn’t be punked. I couldn’t lie down,” he said, not realizing by not playing along he was ending his career as a professional boxer.
“They set me up to fail because nobody would fight me. You get in the door when you fight somebody with a reputation,” Mitchell said, noting he never got a chance to fight a big name during a sanctioned match.
Mitchell would later spar with Lennox Lewis and he also met and got to know Tyson.
“I knocked Lenox Lewis out. I had hurt him sparring,” Mitchell recalled about the former heavyweight champion.
Advice from Tyson
Mitchell said Tyson has gotten a bad break from the media and the public.
“Mike Tyson is an awesome guy. People pick at him because he is Mike. He told me you hear about the bad things I do but not the good things I do. He confided in me.
He saw himself in me,” Mitchell continued.
Mitchell remembers the advice given to him by Tyson, which he now passes on.
“He let me know you are only good as your last fight. Everybody loves a winner and hates a loser. After I lost my first fight, I knew what he meant. It doesn’t matter how many you knock out, if you lose one fight they call you a bum,” he said Tyson told him.
Mitchell hasn’t fought a professional fight since 2000. “I stopped boxing because I couldn’t get any matches,” he said.
“I learned people don’t love you or respect you – they love what you are, not who you are. When you are in the boxing world, they appear to be for you as long as you are winning,” he remarked.
There are no sour grapes for Mitchell, who since 2002 has been working for the City of Daytona Beach.
“I had realized my boxing career was over. I had to get a job. It was like being born again,” he said, adding his mind and heart was still in boxing when he started working full time. Some people might have even perceived him as bitter.
Focused on others
Boxing is still in his blood and his new dream is not for himself, but training others to reach the heights he never achieved.
When not working for the city, Mitchell works with kids in a boxing program he has started at the John H. Dickerson Center in Daytona Beach. The program is four days a week beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Having a program to participate in keeps the kids off the streets, Mitchell said.
“Florida has the best talent in the world. In Daytona, I’ve seen guys who could be champion in every weight division,” he noted.
Mitchell said his boxing program helps keep crime down among young Black males.
“Show them the way to a boxing ring and they can become somebody. I can say I had a part in helping them,” he remarked.
Mitchell said his program is not only for people who want to learn how to box, but also for those who want to get fit.
“People have a misconception about boxing. You are learning how to defend yourself and it is a good weight loss program,” he said.
For more information, call 386-262-0758.