Former British super-featherweight champion Kevin Mitchell returns to the ring on 9 July hoping to put a torrid 12 months behind him and erase the memories of that crushing defeat to Michael Katsidis in his native East London last May.
Mitchell (31-1, 23 KOs) faces unbeaten European lightweight champion John Murray (31-0, 18 KOs) at London’s ExCeL arena in what promises to be a classic all-British battle for the minor WBO intercontinental lightweight belt.
Mitchell failed in his world title bid last year when he was stopped inside three rounds by Aussie bruiser Katsidis at his beloved Upton Park.
The Dagenham fighter blamed troubles in his personal life for his disappointing performance on the night, and his under-preparation was badly exposed by Katsidis’ brutal power and tireless work rate.
Mitchell’s trainer Jimmy Tibbs accused his charge of cutting corners in training, while promoter Frank Warren also laid into the 26-year-old former amateur star for “wasting his time”.
Mitchell was clearly at a low ebb and spiralled into depression as he struggled to come to terms with the first defeat in his seven-year professional career. But he now claims to be back on the straight and narrow and ready to put himself in the mix for another tilt at a world honours.
And during the promotional tour for next month’s ‘North n’ South’ show, Mitchell whetted the appetite of boxing fans by promising an old fashioned slugfest with his fellow Briton Murray.
He said: “I’ll stand and trade with Murray in the centre of the ring. I’m not training to box him, I’m training to have a fight with him.
“Murray only knows how to come forward throwing bombs and I don’t plan on taking any steps backwards either so it could end up being a war.”
Both Murray and Mitchell have shown healthy respect for each other’s accomplishments and admit to getting on well outside the ring. However, that mutual respect will have to be put to one side on the night as they looked to take their respective careers to the next level.
“We get on outside the ring you know but that doesn’t mean anything, once we’re in there it’s business,” said Murray.
“Both of us are standing in each others way and trust me, we’ll both be trying to take each others head off. We’re going to have a fight and that’s what boxing is about. But we’ll have the fight and then I’m sure after we’ll go for a pint with each other.”
Murray described the domestic showdown as “the biggest fight of my career so far” as the Mancunian looks to put himself in the frame for a long-awaited world title shot.
Meanwhile, a second consecutive defeat would likely condemn Mitchell to domestic level opposition for the foreseeable future, and the Londoner is determined to put it all on the line on 9 July to avoid that fate.
The lightly-regarded WBO intercontinental crown will be up for grabs on the night but both fighters will be more concerned about earning bragging rights than a paper title.
Mitchell claims to be fully focused on the fight after his well-documented personal problems and recent run in with the law, and if both fighters bring their ‘A’ game to ExCeL Arena, there is little doubt that the Londoner is the more talented fighter. At his best, he should have too much speed and movement for the less mobile Murray.
Mitchell has certainly faced better opposition than his rival and before losing to Katsidis, he gave Amir Khan‘s conquerer Breidis Prescott a boxing lesson on his way to an unanimous decision in December 2009. Other notable scalps include domestic gatekeeper Carl Johanneson and the experienced Colombian Walter Estrada.
Murray, meanwhile, has not yet taken on a bona-fide top-level fighter, and looked sluggish last time out in labouring to points win over the obscure Spanish champion Karim El Ouazghari at London’s York Hall.
Along with Lee McAllister (32-2, 8 KOs) and former Prizefighter winner Gary Buckland (21-2, 8 KOs), the only other recognisable names on his CV are former British titlist Scott Lawton and the badly faded Jonathan Thaxton.
Despite his glossy undefeated record, Murray remains largely unknown among casual boxing fans, but a win against Mitchell would certainly change all that. However, the Mancunian will have to go into the Lion’s Den to get the recognition he craves, as Mitchell will have a partisan crowd behind him in London’s Docklands come fight night.
Mitchell said: “This isn’t just about titles or a world title shot, there is a lot more at stake. We’ve both got egos and we both believe that we are the best in the division.
“I’m out to prove that I’m No1 and I’ve got a lot to make up for after I was beaten by Katsidis. I’m giving it back to my family, fans and friends, they know what the real Kevin Mitchell is like and they will see him against Murray.”
If Mitchell has prepared properly and put his personal problems firmly behind him, expect the Eastender to have too much ringcraft and boxing smarts for his more languid opponent and go on to secure bragging rights for the capital city.
Knockoutpunch prediction – Mitchell by decision