Khan shows Mitchell the way
Kevin Mitchell's right forearm is inked with a quote from Muhammad Ali: "The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road - long before I dance under those lights." Won or lost, remember, won or lost.
Amir Khan's not really a tattoo kind of guy, but, on the evidence of Saturday, he doesn't need to cover himself in crib notes. Mean and mature on his American debut against Paulie Malignaggi, although not quite 'The Greatest', Khan could still teach Mitchell a thing or two about proper preparation.
"About five weeks ago, Jimmy Tibbs said, 'you haven't prepared for this fight properly, you keep messing around'," admitted Mitchell after his three-round demolition at the hands of Michael Katsidis. "There were things I wasn't doing and I was having a few late nights."
"If you don't want to play the game, don't waste my time," countered his promoter Frank Warren, while an equally incensed Tibbs echoed the words of Ali, with whom the venerable trainer once sparred: "If you want to be a world champion, there are no shortcuts, you've got to live the life."
Mitchell was unable to deal with Katsidis' relentless attacks and will now have to go back to the drawing board
Katsidis and his manager Brendon Smith looked more than a little hacked off by all these excuses. When Mitchell added that his build-up had been adversely affected by a spot of domestic discord, the ever-polite Katsidis looked fit to burst.
If Mitchell's challenge for the Aussie's WBO interim lightweight belt had been billed as an old-fashioned Cockney knees-up, then Katsidis did the equivalent of tear down a portrait of the Queen Mum and extinguish a cigarette in the whelks. Still, he didn't deserve to have his achievement overshadowed in this way.
That said, I happened to be in Mitchell's gym when Tibbs was giving out about his charge's extra-curricular activities, so I can vouch for the validity of his claims. Mitchell looked ragged in sparring that day and admitted he was off the weight.
The talk after the fight was that Mitchell had abandoned his game plan and been suckered into a war by Katsidis, but I'm not so sure. The Dagenham man looked rattled by his rival's power and verve in the opening exchanges, and the impression thereafter was that when Katsidis came forward with any intent - which was most of the time - Mitchell simply didn't have the strength or the wherewithal to keep him at bay.
Perhaps Mitchell, a former British and Commonwealth super-featherweight champion, needs more time to grow into the 135lb division. More likely, he needs to rethink his approach, get his head down and graft, just as Khan did following his 54-second defeat to Breidis Prescott in 2008.
Khan could not miss with the jab against Malignaggi - and his right hand wasn't too shabby either
While Mitchell has spoken of his love of being "one of the boys" in his gym in Canning Town, Khan revealed one of the reasons he'd split with Warren and fled to the States was because there were too many distractions in England.
Holed up in trainer Freddie Roach's Wild Card surgery in Los Angeles for the last four months, the 23-year-old has been nipped, tucked and tinkered with and transformed into something altogether more robust.
His 11th-round stoppage of American veteran Malignaggi on his US debut was a lesson in following a game plan, a lesson in playing to one's strengths and a lesson in the fundamental importance in boxing of the jab.
It was widely thought that power would win the day against the light-punching Malignaggi, but it was the speed and precision of Khan's left-hand lead that ground down his rival and eventually broke his heart. No need to take unnecessary risks if your signature shot is top of the class.
The Bolton man had been afforded a predictably hot reception at Madison Square Garden, for New Yorker Malignaggi is a local boy. But it was a measure of the quality of Khan's performance that the natives were cheering him to the rafters long before the final bell.
Afterwards, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions announced Khan's next fight would be back in the UK on 31 July, before revealing that Katsidis could conceivably be in the opposite corner. However, Schaefer's assertion that Katsidis is "one of our fighters" will be news to the Aussie, who had been pretty adamant back in London that he was a free agent. Success, the saying goes, has many fathers.
For his part, Roach, fed up of being accused of ducking the light-welterweight division's big-hitters, said he fancied Argentine clubber Marcos Maidana, the mandatory challenger to Khan's WBA crown.
Maidana, with 28 wins and 27 knockouts from 29 fights, can bang, especially with his right hand, but anyone who has seen his wild, wild clash with Victor Ortiz will know he is there to be hit. As a result, Roach will fancy his man's straight punches to trump Maidana's more crude lines of attack, although plenty of others would disagree.
While Khan has endless options, Mitchell, who had been angling for a domestic showdown with his old amateur friend, is back to the drawing board - in the gym and out there on the road, and far away from those lights.