Former undefeated WBA and IBF junior lightweight world champion Brian Mitchell is making a comeback to the center stage. Not in a boxing ring, however, but in a theatre. Mitchell will be squaring off with Goldilocks and the three bears in a Christmas pantomime for a two month season over November and December. He’ll be playing the role of the ringmaster. Former heavyweight world champion Frank Bruno previously played the same role on the London stage.
The South African boxing icon, who is often mentioned when the greatest of all time from local shores is discussed, has always had a fondness for media attention and it’s surprising it has taken this long for him to take a step into the performing arts. “It’s a shortcut to Hollywood,” jokes Mitchell when quizzed about his accepting the role.
Mitchell won the WBA junior lightweight world title in 1986 by stopping Alfredo Layne in 10 rounds. He made a record 12 successful defenses of the title before vacating it and claiming the IBF junior lightweight world title by out-pointing Tony “The Tiger” Lopez in 1991. He retired, following a brief comeback in 1995 with a record of 45-1-3 (21 KOs).
Although while active as a boxer he swore that he would never become a trainer or manager when he left the ring, the inevitable happened and he had a successful foray in both roles. He was the man behind Harry Simon, the night the Namibian boxer defeated Winky Wright to claim the WBO junior middleweight world title. Mitchell also groomed the likes of IBO junior lightweight world champion Cassius Baloyi and a number of other promising boxers.
While he still owns a gym, Mitchell’s days in boxing are numbered. “I’ve still got an interest in Baloyi,” says Mitchell “But when his career ends then that’s it for me as well.” Baloyi left Mitchell to rejoin his first trainer Nic Durandt a few years back, so Mitchell’s role in his career is a lesser one than what he enjoyed previously. “I’ve become a bit disillusioned with the way things work in boxing and I’m just not that interested to be part of it anymore. I do love the sport. Boxing made me who I am today and it will always carry a special place in my heart, but I’ll enjoy boxing from the sidelines. It’s more fun than knowing all the battles which take place behind the scenes.”
Mitchell has done well out of boxing and has been financially secure since his mid-twenties. He also has an interest in a car dealership selling secondhand executive cars, as well as a lakeside property development business. “I’m still young enough to tackle new challenges, so who knows? Maybe this acting thing will also open some new doors. I know I was only approached for the part because of my celebrity status, so now my biggest challenge is to prove that I’m not just a name.”
On being approached to get involved in pro wrestling like former three-time world champion Dingaan Thobela, Mitchell says “I would get involved, but only as a manager. I wouldn’t wrestle. Maybe Dingaan still feels he’s up to that, but I’m older than him and I don’t think I’d enjoy being flung around a ring.” Although he is involved in pro wrestling, Thobela himself has not yet taken the step to fight either and at this stage is a manager. But rumors are circulating that we could well see him in action in the near future. Since Thobela is still licensed, he has not yet given up on the idea of climbing back into the boxing ring either.