By Eric Rineer
VERO BEACH, Fla. — Sharmba Mitchell says he has a lot of fight left in him.
“I’ve been boxing for 24 years now, almost 25 years,” said Mitchell, 51-3, the former junior welterweight champion from Takoma Park, Md. “Once you’ve been going that long, you set goals for yourself. After I reach those goals, then I’ll retire.”
Mitchell, 32, who recently wrapped up training camp at Vero Beach’s Elite Boxing, is inching closer to a title shot with undisputed champ Kostya Tszyu, whom he lost his WBA crown to two years ago.
Regaining the championship is Mitchell’s biggest inspiration to keep fighting, he said.
He takes a giant step toward that goal when he meets hard-hitting Ben Tackie (24-3) of Accra, Ghana, Saturday night.
The Mitchell-Tackie fight, which is the IBF’s elimination bout for its No. 1 ranking, will be the latter of two televised matches on Showtime that begin at 10:15 p.m. EST at City Center Pavilion in Reno, Nevada.
A Mitchell victory, however, would not guarantee him an immediate rematch with Tszyu, though Tszyu has expressed interest in a second fight with Mitchell in a recent interview with Fightnews.com.
The first Mitchell-Tszyu fight, held in February 2001, was halted after the seventh round. Mitchell’s left knee gave out on him, forcing the stoppage. He had to undergo knee surgery following the fight to repair torn ligaments.
He says he has never fully recovered from the injury to the knee, which he originally hurt training in 1998.
Scott Buchanan, one of Mitchell’s trainers and a longtime friend, says his fighter deserves a shot at Tszyu. Mitchell has put together an impressive string of victories since October 1994, winning 20 of his past 21 bouts, including a four-round KO over Carlos Vilches in January.
“We’re just trying to corner the man – Kostya Tszyu — so we can be No. 1 across the board,” Buchanan said.
Avenging the loss to Tszyu, however, wouldn’t be enough to cap an already brilliant career in Mitchell’s eyes.
“I’d probably want to defend the title once or twice, give Tszyu the chance to be able to buy his title back,” Mitchell said. “Then, I’d probably go and fight (Arturo) Gatti, you know, because there would be big money in it. Or, just move up in weight.”
Mitchell admits he’s got a tall task in front of him.
“I can’t look that far ahead yet because I still have Tackie in front of me and Tackie’s going to be ready to fight,” Mitchell said. “He wants to get in and get that one punch in and see if he can knock you out. I think if I can put together a variety of punches, I think I can take him out of there.”