By John Hargate
This coming Friday, February 10th, Dagenham’s Kevin Mitchell hits London’s York Hall for the first time since 2009 in a scheduled ten-threes International contest against Felix Lora, 14-8-5 (8), a Dominican based in Spain. Kevin, 32-1 (24), explained why a fight with Lora made sense for him and also for BoxNation (Sky channel 456) who will be screening the bill live.
“I think they want me in there for the long duration,” said Kevin when speaking to BoxingScene.com. “You never know with the young kids, they might go and bowl their opponents out in one round. They’re going to want to use the TV [time] up with me.”
How important would keeping busy and shaking off the ring rust be with the prospect of a world title fight looking likely for later on the year? “I don’t want to be inactive all the time,” Kevin explained, a point echoed by trainer Jimmy Tibbs.
“I would like to see Kevin a bit more active. These boys today earn so much money and it’s (about getting) the TV dates,” said Tibbs.
Tibbs continued: “If he comes through this ok, he’s supposed to be fighting Ricky Burns in May at Upton Park. I would like to see him have another ten-rounder before that fight. I wouldn’t like to see him sitting round for another three or four months.”
Mitchell was originally scheduled to meet Stephen Ormond before the Irishman pulled out. “Ormond would have been there for six, seven, eight rounds. He’s a tough kid - I’ve sparred with him,” said Mitchell.
“Then they were going to bring in Carl Johanneson, and even if they’d have brought him in it still would have gone late because he’s not the sort of bloke you can bowl out in one or two rounds. [Last time] I fought him, he broke my jaw and I busted both of my hands in the fight!”
“I don’t want to do is go out there and break my hands on their heads, because I’m thinking about Burns,” Mitchell admitted. “I want to look classy, look sharp, not get hit and put on a ten round display for the crowd.”
I wondered if motivation might be a problem against a less than stellar opponent? “It would have been last year when my head was all over the place,” Kevin conceded. “I couldn’t even get myself motivated for a world title fight so it shows you how hard it would have been. I had a good chat with Jimmy over the last eight or so months and showed my true ability in the John Murray fight. Basically I just want to be out as regularly as I can and earn as much money as I can. I should be sitting here (as) a world champion!”
Tibbs believes Kevin is in a good place mentally. “He’s motivated for every fight now because that’s his living,” insisted Tibbs. “He knows whether it’s a three round fight or a ten round fight he has to be ready. It doesn’t matter how long he’s had out, he always comes good if he’s got his head right. If he hadn’t, I’d be talking to Frank [Warren] his manager about pulling him out, but he’s been as good as gold.”
Kevin was keen to detail the changes he’s made. He said: “Normally, I get the fight over and get the beer straight in with the boys. Now I’ve totally given drinking up, knocked it on the head. I won’t drink again. I’m happy. When you train happy, you fight happy. If you’re not happy in your outside life and things ain’t going right then you can’t concentrate. You come up the gym and you’re just fed up.”
Assuming Lora doesn’t score a huge upset and Burns can get past the dangerous Paulus Moses, a meeting between the two Brits looks to be set in stone. Mitchell told me that he’s confident of taking Burns’s WBO title away.
“I know Ricky Burns is good, and he’s a very good friend of mine now. He’s probably the most improved British fighter in ages. He’s knuckled right down. You don’t get to be a two weight world champion by being an idiot. I’ve sparred with him – he was strong, but I think I could out strength him. The first spar was an even spar, the second spar he got the better of me. I wasn’t as fit as him, he was piping fit and he was in shape but I know what I’m capable of doing. I’ll outmatch him in every area. I’ll be too fast, punch too hard. Basically me trying to outmatch him in everything he does. I call him an all-round steely fighter. He’s got most things there. He’s not the biggest hitter but he’ll do enough to hurt you. At world level, you get hit on the chin and that’s it. Either way, I’ll be ready for what he brings on that night.”
Mitchell also had thoughts on other possible future opponents. “You watch John Murray fight that Brandon Rios the other weekend and he went 11 rounds with him. Not taking anything away from John, John’s a good fighter, but when you watch that fight and watch how slow Rios is and how sluggish he looks, he wouldn’t get near me.
“As I always promised, when I win the world title off Burns, I’ll give John Murray his shot back. John showed in the Brandon Rios fight that he’s got lots of guts. One thing I hope John does do though is come back from those two losses – because they ain’t the end of the world – and has a nice long break, and then thinks about his boxing ability. He got into a routine where he was just bowling people over, but he was forgetting about his boxing. Just banging people out, but he can box. Good luck to John when he comes back.”
As for Mitchell’s own future? He predicted: “I’ve five or six years left in the game and I want to bag as many world titles and as much money as I can.”
A convincing win against Lora with no long term damage will be the first step on the road to an exciting year for Dagenham destroyer. Lora is vulnerable early, but if he can make it through the first couple of rounds then he may well extend Mitchell the distance, losing every round in the process.