Kevin Mitchell tops a sold-out York Hall tonight in his first fight in London in nearly two years.
He takes on Dominican Republican Felix Lora over ten rounds at lightweight and the fight will be televised live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546).
The Dagenham Destroyer talks to Glynn Evans about his sensational win over John Murray, a future showdown with Ricky Burns and lots more.
Despite conceding home advantage and coming off 14 months inactivity (and a harrowing stoppage loss), you delivered the performance of your career to stop Manchester’s previously unbeaten John Murray in eight up in Liverpool last July. What was the key to your victory?
Unlike for my loss to Katsidis, everything was perfect in the build-up. When I’m on edge, when the odds are against me, when I’ve prepared right and I’m in a good frame of mind, I feel no one can beat me. Beforehand I predicted I’d win by stoppage between rounds six and twelve.
I’d been out a long time with hand injuries before I beat Breidis Prescott and that was another of my best performances. For me, ring rust is just a frame of mind, something that shows a lack of confidence. You should be able to shed any lack of sharpness in sparring or on the pads.
I won basically because Jimmy, Mark (Tibbs, his trainers) and myself came up with a better game plan than the Murray camp, and we had several plans. The same will happen when I face Ricky Burns. Mark and particularly Jimmy have worked at the best levels.
It got difficult for a couple of rounds because I made the mistake of working with Murray rather than letting him do his work then countering him. Once I went for a dance, started slipping and sliding, he wore himself out then I knocked him out!
Who helped you to overcome your recent difficulties?
Frank and I have had our rows but he’s been loyal to me, helped me out with money when I’ve needed it and I’m grateful that he’s stuck by me and given me another chance. My family helped me through it, chauffeuring me back and forth to the gym when needed and Jimmy and Mark have been good listeners. Just talking to them has really helped. Mick Collier of the Board has also been good to me; he’s a good bloke who understands boxers and boxing.
But I’d be nowhere without Bill Ives who owns Rainham Steel. He boxed as a kid and sparred loads of pros as a young man and really knows his boxing. He provided the funds for me to buy a flat in Hornchurch, on the condition I pay it back later and he’s provided me with employment at Rainham Steel, doing up properties. We’ve become really good pals.
What training have you been doing since the win over Murray last July?
I took a couple of months out but, working for Bill, I’m lifting heavy metal and knocking conservatories through with big hammers which keeps me fit. Gold’s Gym in Dagenham give me free membership and I lifted some weights plus did some cardio and swimming there.
I began back at the TKO in Canning Town with Mark and Jimmy five weeks before Christmas and I’ve been solid at it since. I’ve always really enjoyed the training as Boxing’s my life. I desperately want to be a world champion and, right now, I’m not too far away. Nothing is going to stop me achieving it. Frank’s always told me that the only thing that will stop me being a world champion is me and he’s right.
On Friday you return to duty at the York Hall against Felix Lora, a 27 year old Spanish based Dominican who has boxed in 11 different countries. He once went the distance with (former WBC light-welter king) Devon Alexander and, despite operating in good class, he has only been stopped once in 27 fights. What do you hope to get out of the fight?
Well it’s probably the last time I’ll feature at The York Hall so I want to put on a classy performance for all my fans. Obviously, I’ll be looking to smash him on the chin if I can but I genuinely don’t expect to knock him out early. The losses on his record have been to good fighters so I expect it to go 10 rounds. I’ve heard he’s a tough guy, a very fit lad who likes to bomb the right hand over so I’ll not be looking to take any silly shots, get marked up or bust my hands. Make him miss, make him pay.
Scotland’s Ricky Burns has capitalized on your missed opportunities to capture WBO titles in both the super feather and lightweight divisions. There’s talk of you facing him in late spring if you come through on Friday. Do you resent Ricky for taking what could’ve been yours?
Not at all. Ricky has achieved what he has on merit not because of my absence. We’re very friendly, just as me and John Murray was good friends before and after our fight. I take nothing away from him he’s really come on over the last couple of years. People seem to forget he beat the British Champion (Graham Earl) in just his ( ) fight and I doubt he was brought down to London to win so fair play he’s achieved his titles in tough fights both times! He’s done brilliant to achieve what he has and, like me, he’s never ducked anyone. He’s an inspiration to all boxers in how he learned from his losses and came back even stronger. Of course I want to fight him and beat him but outside the ring I take my hat of too him and respect him immensely for what’s he’s done.
Would you be prepared to travel to Scotland to fight him?
I’d go to Scotland but I'd like it at Upton Park and I’ll sell a lot more than I sold for my (WBO interim) world title challenge there with Michael Katsidis. It will be England V Scotland. I doubt the fight would draw a quarter of that up in Scotland. Financially, it makes most sense for both of us to get the fight in London but he’s the champion and I won’t pass the fight by if I have to venture over the border!
You’ve sparred with Burns quite recently, how would you go about beating him?
But with the right preparation I’m very, very confident that I’ll outmatch Ricky in every area. No doubt he’ll try and push me back but I’ll just keep changing things. Since a very young age, I’ve been conscious at becoming very good in every aspect of boxing; going forwards or backwards, stepping on the gas, taking ‘em for a dance...Whatever direction the fight takes, with the help of Mark and Jimmy’s various game-plans, I’ll find a way to beat him. I refuse to be denied. I could possibly floor and stop him but I fancy really doing a number on him over 12 hard rounds.
In addition to Burns and Murray, British champ Anthony Crolla and European king Gavin Rees are on the cusp of world class. Might they feature in your future plans? What are your remaining ambitions? Avenging Katsidis?
Both would be a hard night for anyone but, no disrespect, I’m looking beyond British and European level now. I’ve still got five or six years left and I want them to be at world level for the big money.
I’m not too hung up on getting Katsidis back. What happened, happened. He’s a proper warrior who done his job on the night. I think the standard of my performance against Murray proved emphatically that I wasn’t right, mentally or physically, for Katsidis yet I was still winning the fight.
But Michael used his tools and I kept getting caught when I should’ve been dancing. Big respect to him but, if I beat Burns, who beat Katsidis pretty comfortably, I’ll feel I’ve redeemed myself indirectly. Look what I done to Prescott, people forget that and Paul McCloskey got more paradise for having life and death with him! John Murray had the same style yet, by ducking and diving, throwing at the right time, I took care of him, didn’t I? In time, I believe I’ll go on to prove myself by beating far bigger names than Michael Katsidis.
Basically, I want to chase the fights that’ll earn me the most money and bring me the glory I want to revel in. I want to buy up loads of flats and a nice house for myself. I want bundles of money so that I know my kids (seven year old Connor and two year old Vinnie) are safe (financially). Before I’m finished I intend winning multiple world titles at lightweight plus a couple more at light-welter.
2011 proved an eye opener but 2012 will be The Year of The Dagenham Destroyer. Just you watch me!
***Kevin Mitchell’s return against Felix Lora headlines the show which can be seen live and exclusive on the New Undisputed Home of Boxing BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546) on Friday 10th February from 8pm.***
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