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Mitchell emerges from the darkness

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Ben Dirs | 10:22 UK time, Wednesday, 12 May 2010

While the pram in the hall may be the enemy of good art, it has inspired many a hungry fighter to great deeds - and not just in the Rocky movies.

Twelve months ago Kevin Mitchell was "grafting on the railway" to make ends meet, his favoured career in jeopardy because of a debilitating hand injury. A second baby on the way and a mortgage to pay, Mitchell concedes they were "dark, dark times".

Mitchell had spent the previous six years compiling one of the most eye-catching resumes in British boxing, including winning the British and Commonwealth super-featherweight crowns. He nevertheless played second fiddle in Frank Warren's promotional stable, so that had his injury forced him to hang them up for good, few outside of the boxing fraternity would have noticed.

Instead Mitchell got his hand fixed and returned a rejuvenated fighter, winning a couple of tune-ups before thoroughly outclassing Colombia's Breidis Prescott, the man who knocked out Amir Khan in 54 seconds in 2008, last December.

mitchell595.jpgMitchell prepared for Katsidis at his Canning Town gym with veteran trainer Jimmy Tibbs

And on Saturday at his beloved Upton Park, Mitchell takes on rugged Aussie Michael Katsidis for the WBO interim lightweight crown in front of an expected 15,000 fans. "Frank Warren used to say I was his diamond in the rough," Mitchell told BBC Sport. "He kept me out of the limelight, but now I'm beaming through."

Before his defeat of Prescott, you would have expected a match between Mitchell and Katsidis to be a nailed-on war. But under the tutelage of revered trainer Jimmy Tibbs, who also guided Nigel Benn and Barry McGuigan among many others, Mitchell looks to have been upgraded from slugger to boxer.

"I always had the skills, if you look back to my amateur days I won more national titles than Amir Khan," explained the 25-year-old Mitchell, whose West Ham hero is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Julian Dicks - AKA 'The Terminator'.

"As a pro you're in there to attack and punch and hurt people, and that's what I do best. But against a fighter like Prescott, things had to change and Jimmy changed them. It went perfectly to the game-plan and nothing ever goes perfectly to the game-plan in the fight world.

mitchell_cole595.jpgChelsea and former West Ham footballer Joe Cole is one of many stars to have dropped in during the build-up

"Everyone expected me to get chinned in four or five rounds, but I wasn't a 22-year-old boy who was vulnerable, I was a 25-year-old man and more hungry than you could dream of."

While "beaming through" has its upsides, not least financially, it also means the press and public want to reach out and grab you. As a result, the lead-up to the Katsidis fight hasn't been without its distractions.

When he hasn't been messing about in the ring with Chelsea and former Hammers star Joe Cole he's been doing pad-work with X Factor's Stacey Solomon or visiting the Ford Motor Works in his native Dagenham, to the irritation of Tibbs, who was quite clearly vexed by his charge's extra-curricular activities on the day I dropped in.

"It's part and parcel of the job, the better you are at something, the more you get noticed," explained Mitchell, who is undefeated in 31 fights. "But as Jimmy says, we've got to do the work - this is the fight game, and it's not an easy game."

The 29-year-old Katsidis last fought in Britain in 2007, when he engaged in one of the fights of the year against Luton's Graham Earl, a five-round humdinger that left Earl a husk of a fighter. In a game that is far from easy, Katsidis is no mere pawn.

Three of his last five fights have been against former world champions, including wars with Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz. Katsidis is used to being in the trenches experiencing heavy bombing, although Mitchell believes his rival could be suffering from shellshock.

"Katsidis hits very hard, he's very strong and ferocious, but I think I've got him at the right time," said Mitchell. "It's a step up in boxing ability for me, but as soon as he stepped up he got beat and I've definitely got the punching power to take him out.

"I'd imagine you'll see a bit of slugging at times, it's hard not to with this kid, he's an animal. But that's also his downfall, he's been in so many of those sorts of fights now. How's he going to keep up with a 25-year-old who's fresh, has been active and is as hungry as me?"

There have been plenty of hungry fighters from round Mitchell's way down the years, and he is acutely aware of the rich East London heritage of which he is now a part - a heritage which takes in Benn and Terry Spinks, an Olympic gold medallist in 1956, and stretches back to Jewish legends Jack 'Kid' Berg and Ted 'Kid' Lewis before disappearing into the dim and distant bare-knuckle past.

But Mitchell has no intentions of following in the footsteps of Berg and Lewis, or indeed domestic rival Khan, and broadening his horizons across the pond.

"I'm happy here, in the gym with the boys," says Mitchell from his base in Canning Town. "Loads of ex-fighters, people I know from years ago, that's what I like. I couldn't care less about going to America. Why bother? I'll just bring them here."

Beat Katsidis on Saturday and Mitchell will be dreaming of fighting both Khan and the WBO's full champion Juan Manuel Marquez in his own backyard. An East End hero, he'll also be able to trade in that pram in his hall for a swankier model.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Good blog.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hey Ben – big fan of yours, both the cricket and the boxing, keep up the good work.

    So what about predictions? Mitchell v Katsidis? Khan v Malignani? and what about if/when Khan and Mitchell meet? Myself, I don't buy all the talk that Khan is "chinny" - he's class and his fights are always good to watch because he hits and moves so well.

    Also, any views on the Williams/Cintron debacle last weekend?

  • Comment number 3.

    ValeroRIP - Hi mate, and thanks for your kind words. I fancy Mitchell breaking Katsidis down and maybe stopping him late, although I don't think he'll have it all his own way like in the Prescott fight as Katsidis throws far more punches. I like Mitchell's chin as well, although I hope he's put the work in - he's done an awful lot of promotional stuff and when I paid a visit, he was a little off the weight.

    There will be a Khan blog going up tomorrow and I'll discuss his fight in more detail then. I agree 'chinny' is a strong word - that said, I won't be convinced by him until he goes in with one of the big hitters in that division, and how long can he avoid them?

    Yeh, bit weird that Williams fight - first of all, how was he able to fall through the ropes so easily?! Not good.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Ben, Do you not think that a lot of people are underestimating Katsidis? His only two defeats have come against decent fighters - there's no shame in losing a split-decision to Juan Diaz.

    This is going to be a massive step up in class for Mitchell; Prescott aside, this will be one of (if not the) biggest punchers he has fought so far. Katsidis is a much smarter boxer and won't let Mitchell fight the fight he did against Prescott. Of course, Mitchell would naturally prefer to the fight on the inside anyway but it will be interesting to see how he holds up against someone as experienced as Katsidis. Either way, it's going to be a cracker of a fight!

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree with Ruari here. Katsidis is some fighter. Not a great but clearly above anything Mitchell has fought. Prescoot has been over-valued after the Khan win which was brutal but merely exposed a flaw in Khan rather than big up Prescott.

  • Comment number 6.

    I really do expect Mitchell to pick apart katsidis in the later rounds after overcoming some heavy shots in the earlier rounds. maybe for Mitchell to win on cuts or UD. He is by far the better "boxer" of the two.

    Also feel Khan will have far too much for Paulie, his burst of rapid punching will be too much for him too handle

  • Comment number 7.

    I think Mitchell could come unstuck against Katsidis, its possible he's right and Katisidis has had one war too many but I wouldnt be at all surprised with a Katsidis win.

    Re Khan, I think Prescott caught him cold in round 1 which contributed but his chin is still obviously suspect. He doesnt seem able to fight inside, shouldnt be a problem with Malignaggi, but stick him in with a Hatton type fighter and I think he would really struggle.

    As for Cintron, how did he lose a fight that way - 'Californian Rules' indeed!!!

  • Comment number 8.

    Kevin Mitchell is the type of young british boxer we need. Michael Katsidis is a fierce fighter and fair play to Mitchell for taking this fight. More than can be said for Amir Khan to switched to Golden Boy to dodge fighting the mandatory challenger Marcos Maidana (28 wins 27 by ko). When is the British public going to sit up and realise this about Khan, his fights are very selectively chosen for him ever since his demolishion by Prescott within 60 seconds his management are scared to put him in with anyone 'dangerous'. He fought Marco Antonio Barrerra when the guy was a veteran and was way past it. Then fights a nobody from the Bronx to further enhance his record of fighting donkeys and now to top it all off Paulie Malignaggi who's one of the softest punching light welterweights in the buiness, judging by the 8 ko's to his name and numerous beatings off Cotto,Hatton,Clottey,Judah etc. Unless Khan grows a set and starts mixing it with the big boys I have no interest in watching his fights. The win for him is guaronteed unless his camp would never have taken the fight, so you have to ask yourself why bother watching it? I can see a war on Sat with Mitchell edging it on points against Katsidis and hopefully this will give Khan no option to fight Mitchell in the first 'big fight' of his career.

  • Comment number 9.

    Yeah, I have always wondered why he got so little attention..

  • Comment number 10.

    I've been a big fan of Katsidis for years but being English I'd love to see Mitchell knock him off. Either way, best of luck to both of them, neither had to take this fight.

    But a word of warning for Mitchell. Last time so many English and Aussies got together at Upton Park, the Aussies beat us 3-1 when Harry Kewell ran riot. Hopefully Mitchell can even the score.

  • Comment number 11.

    Can I say that the East End has brought thru some great Boxer's and I hope Mitchell does great he has a fantastic training team in the Tibbs family.

    I would like to point out some boxer for the future who are shown in the Photo with Kevin and Jimmy at the West Ham ABA they are Charlie Duffield, Tom Baker and Dudley O'Shaughnessy they are all fighting tonight at York Hall in the ABA National Finals the first time 3 boxer from the same club have made it to a national final in I do not know how long and I know they are all supporting Mitchell at Upton Park Tomorrow. Boxing is alive and Fighting lets hope they get a chance to show there skills at the 2012 Olympics and go on to become household names like I am sure Mitchell.

  • Comment number 12.

    I was just waiting for someone to bash Khan and number 8's comment is typical of the ignorant Anti-Khan brigade. Khan is taking a step up fighting a legit guy in Paulie, many here in the USA tip him to beat Khan over 12 rounds. Personally I think Khan will K.O him just like he would do to Kevin Mitchell.

  • Comment number 13.

    Good blog and good points

    this fight has 2 determining factors... FOOTWORK & ACCURACY
    Mitchell has both in the bag, katsidis is vicious and one punch can change it all of course however I can only see superior foot movement and cleaner shots coming from Kevin.

    Kevin showed a whole new very surprising dimension and head movement to his game against Prescott, Katsidis as much as we love his exciting Gatti like spirit much like Gatti just doesn't have that element, boxers beat brawlers and speed kills

    I won't say stop the khan hating as most people who spew out against him think it's popular to say so and frankly they don't know boxing, the kid is talented trust me he will be around for a long time vetting better and better. For the glory band wagon jumpers out there, learn the sport or put on a pair of gloves before you start wasting up forum space with nonsense, the majority of fighters do take "warm up" fights and Malignaggi despite feather fists is very much credible.

    If Khan defeats the likes of Maidana or a Bradley and goes back to fighting unworthy competition then you can spew until then give the lad a break and cheer him on!!

    Mitchell win tko rd 11
    Khan majority decision win

  • Comment number 14.

    I think Mitchell really would have a better chance of emerging from the darkness if he took that ridiculous hat off!

  • Comment number 15.

    Good luck Kev! Kev has more in his Arsenal then Katsidis. If they go to war it'll be interesting but Kev proved he's got a good chin and if Earl can hurt Katsidis Kev can. Kev can resort to outboxing Katsidis if he gets hurt or decides to go with that as a game plan, rather than have a war from the off. The occassion tells me that Kev will get caught up in trade offs throughout the fight, when maybe he shouldn't but I see sticking to game plan for the most part and stopping Katsidis from 9th onwards.

  • Comment number 16.

    Good blog, but on the Mitchell BBC article it describes Frankie Gavin as an Olympian (bottom of article), he didn't go to the Olympics! :)

  • Comment number 17.

    Ben, your romanticism does you credit - but it now seems that the "pram in the hall" was precisely what has proved Mitchell's undoing. Troubled domestic life, troubled mind, lack of sleep, lack of training - next thing he knows he's getting taken apart by Katsidis.

    Let's face it, life is not the Rocky movies. In fact, it's pretty stupid for any aspiring fighter to start a family in their early twenties. It takes away all sorts of options that may be beneficial or even necessary to you later - and in cases like this, it proves disastrous.


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