Hometown boxer Mitchell emerges victorious in inaugural pro fight

Cleveland, Tenn. † South Pittsburg’s Khalil “Kleo” Mitchell made his professional boxing debut on February 19, in Cleveland, Tennessee where he emerged as the winner with a second-round knockout. Mitchell had dabbled in boxing for a few years, but a little over a year ago Mitchell decided this was what he wanted to do for a career choice. Just getting to his first fight wasn’t a simple, linear path. As he looks forward to what’s on the horizon, Mitchell’s next ring matchup will, again, be close by for those wanting to root for him.

When Mitchell finished college a couple of years ago, friends and family expected him to pursue a career path associated with that degree. Mitchell started the process of interviewing, but there was another seed in the back of his mind. He wanted to be serious about a career in the ring. Everybody didn’t immediately take well to the idea. Mitchell recalls, “They didn’t take it too well in the beginning, but they came around when they saw how seriously I was taking it.” Another consideration Mitchell had to work into the equation was the fact he was a new dad. Mitchell said about the year leading up to his debut, “At first, it was pretty normal to have him come to the gym with me. Sometimes I might have to leave him at home, but once I started having to travel it started to get crazy because I miss my little boy and I’d be out there in Vegas for all those weeks. It feels good though because he likes what I’m doing. He’s interested.” Laughs “He might come up to me and start throwing punches because he knows that’s what I do.”

Part of Mitchell’s premiere fight was learning from some of the best. As a new fighter, that means going to them. “I was at Floyd Mayweather’s Boxing Club [in Vegas] and it was a great experience. The second day I was there I got to see Floyd the moneyman himself get in there and spar,” Mitchell continued, “That was just a great learning experience and moment to take in. Something to tell my grandkids about. It was pretty surreal. Just having his uncles wrapping my hands, working with me on strength and conditioning. It’s really great to be working with the best in the business.” Another consideration was figuring out the class he was best built for.

Kleo Mitchell (right) looks to avoid the left hook from Ratliff (left) before knocking Ratliff out at the 2:15 mark of the second round.

“Me coming from linebacker at 220 pounds, I figured that 175 was a good start weight for me so I could get the experience of cutting weight, limiting my food, and keeping that high work rate while I was trying to drop weight. I felt it was a good weight to get acclimated to {for my starting match},” Mitchell said. Though the road to this first match was not as direct as he was hoping. “At the end of last year, I was thinking I was going to match up with somebody in California, Georgia, Vegas, or Tijuana, Mexico by the end of the year,” Mitchell said. But with the state sanctioning bodies’ rules and schedules falling apart, Mitchell said still he felt his shot was coming. “Even with all the cards falling apart we just stayed positive and stayed in Las Vegas training and put together a good event in Cleveland,” Mitchell said.

David Ratliff was the first opponent for Mitchell in the ring last month in Cleveland, TN. Mitchell had evidently put in the requisite work because Ratliff went down in the second round off the knockout from Mitchell. Mitchell competed in the middle heavyweight class but said that’s not where he sees himself for his next bout. “Me coming from linebacker at 220 pounds, I figured that 175 was a good start weight for me so I could get the experience of cutting weight, limiting my food, and keeping that high work rate while I was trying to drop weight. I felt it was a good weight to get acclimated to {for my starting match}, but I’ve always had my eye on getting down to 160 and fighting in the middleweight division. My next fight will be at Fight Week in Chattanooga and you can find tickets online when the card gets finalized,” Mitchell stated.

When challenged to sum up his strategy for success, Mitchell offered, “Work as hard as you possibly can. That’s all I ever knew to do. I wasn’t always the best in football and I had to work really, really hard to make sure my footwork was up to par and my strength and conditioning were up to par. I just wanted to be above average and the only way to do that was to put in that hard, above-average work. My advice to anybody, regardless of what they’re doing whether it be sports, business, YouTube, finance, it doesn’t matter, is to outwork yourself. Don’t worry about what everybody else is doing, worry about what you’re doing because that’s the only person you can see through to the end is yourself.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.