By Terence Dooley
John Murray and Kevin Mitchell closed out the boxing season on July 16th by making good on their promises to tear the roof off Liverpool’s ECHO Arena when going toe-to-toe to see who would move into world title waters. The WBO Inter-Continental lightweight title bout came hot on the heels of a number of high profile, bad blood fights involving British boxers yet both Murray and Mitchell eschewed trash talk in favor of forming a mutual appreciation society ahead of the first bell and then going to war as soon as it rang.
Mitchell weathered an early onslaught before closing his opponent’s right eye, digging home enough solid left hands to turn the contest, and his career, around. ‘Mighty’ hurt his previously undefeated rival at the end of round seven prior to ending matters in the eighth.
True to their pre-fight form, both praised the other after their FOTY candidate, with Mitchell promising Murray a rematch down the line and John refusing to make excuses when praising Kevin’s performance.
Murray moved to 31-1 (18) after the loss. Frank Warren, who promotes both, has pledged to guide his man back into contention yet one or two whispers have emerged questioning whether the Murray ‘Machine’ would ever crank back into gear. John, though, has not lost his appetite for the game, giving Kevin credit for his gameness during a recent phone call before telling me that reports of a premature retirement are wide of the mark.
“I think he was better on the night and had the better tactics. I fought the wrong tactics and paid the price. If we had the rematch I would put it right and am sure I could win if we did it again,” insisted Murray.
“After four rounds, I felt like I was ready to put the foot down and take him out but as I started the charge I left my defense open and my [right] eye started to close up. Then Mitchell came back into the fight by landing punches on my right side. My vision was so bad that I struggled to see the shots coming. I made mistakes but am confident that I can come back and put things right.”
The 26-year-old Mancunian believes the Mitchell reverse is a stutter step en route to world level; he dismissed the idea that this sudden end to his long winning streak had knocked the stuffing out of him.
“No, I was always going to come back from this,” insisted Murray when asked if he had lost his love for the game. “A lot of my favorite fighters lost in great fights. We put on a great fight, the fans enjoyed it – it is not about losing, it is about how you come back. Mickey Ward and Arturo Gatti lost several fights each; it didn’t mean they weren’t good, exciting fighters. They were the guys that fans wanted to watch.
“I’ve got that same exciting style. Whoever I fight, wherever it is, the fans will enjoy watching me. I just want to get back in there, rectify the mistakes I made against Mitchell and do a number if we fight again.”
Ironically, his Dagenham-based opponent was the previous holder of Britain’s longest winning streak. Kevin held a 31-0 (23) slate before he ran into Michael Katsidis at Upton Park in May of last year in a bout the 26-year-old lost by third round TKO. Kevin did a lot of soul searching after the defeat; he now stands on the cusp of big things. A rematch with Katsidis – Michael’s trainer, Brendon Smith, recently told me that they have sent Warren their purse demands – or a shot at Brandon Rios’ WBA belt could be in the pipeline.
Whatever his next move, Kevin stated that he would give Murray a rematch down the line. The Londoner will want to contest a title first, but there is little doubt that Mitchell-Murray II will happen at some point, music to the hears of Murray.
“Definitely,” the former English, WBC Youth (at super-featherweight), British and EBU titlist’s response to my question of whether he would take a rematch. “Kevin said he would give me another fight and I believe him. We both fought the type of war that people would want to see again. I am up for it and Kevin is as well so there’s no reason why it can’t happen.”
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