Boxing - Mitchell back to his best

Kevin ‘The Hammer’ Mitchell moved one step closer to his goal of a third world title shot by stopping awkward Spaniard Karim Quazghari.

Boxing - Mitchell back to his best

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British boxer Kevin Mitchell (Matchroom press release - Lawrence Lustig)

Mitchell was originally due to face Italian-based Cuban Brunet Zamora, but Zamora was refused permission to leave Italy, for undisclosed reasons. Although Quazghari, a former Spanish champion, stepped in at less than a week’s notice, he had already been in training for a contest this weekend and showed high levels of conditioning and resilience.

Mitchell (36-2, 9st 8lb 5oz) took control straight from the first bell. The opening session was largely one of feeling out, but the Dagenham man controlled the action off the jab, forcing Quazghari (15-3-2 and 9st 8lb 7oz) off balance on several occasions, resulting in a tumble to the canvas ruled as a slip.

For the next two rounds Mitchell was happy to cede centre ring to his opponent, picking him off at will. The gulf in speed and sharpness between the fighters was stark. Mitchell was frequently able to step inside, land with jabs and lead hooks, sometimes in twos and threes then get out again before El Diablo could respond.

In the fourth and fifth sessions Mitchell showed breathtaking defensive skills. Quazghari’s attempts to cut off the ring proved more successful and he managed to corner Mitchell on several occasions. Having got his man where he wanted him however, the Spaniard found he was barely able to catch him.

Mitchell would sway from the waist like a dancer, pick his moment, slip to the side and be gone. The purists sitting at ringside oohed and aahed and murmured their approval. It was a textbook display - the science of hitting and not being hit. Superb.

Despite being outclassed in every department, Quazghari hung in there gamely, stalking his man, living off his rare moments of success.

By the sixth, cracks began to appear. Mitchell caught him with a beautifully timed right hook off the ropes and followed in with a left and right. El Diablo was wobbled, but showed good powers of recovery to last the round.

The eighth and ninth became steadily more one sided, with the Spaniard virtually unable to land at all, while being peppered constantly in return. At the start of the latter session, a sharp left uppercut on the inside rocked Quazghari, which Mitchell followed with a right and left hook, both delivered precisely to the point of the chin.

The Spaniard, appearing stunned, stood back, dropped his hands, looked at the referee and pointed to his right elbow, as if to suggest he had an injury.

It was a bizarre piece of behaviour and Mitchell quite rightly followed in with a volley of blows to send ‘El Diablo’ to the canvas, as ref Marcus McDonnell rushed in and the Spaniard’s cornerman vaulted into the ring, waving the towel.

Quazghari’s team were incensed, berating Mitchell, clearly believing some injustice had been done. The truth is that Kevin Mitchell was blameless - Quazghari had been guilty of not following the basic rule of ‘defend yourself at all times’.

If he felt he had an injury he should have taken a knee. A professional boxer cannot just stop fighting during a round and expect his opponent to wait for him to resume.   The official time was given at 53 seconds of round nine with the Dagenham man victorious via Technical Count Out. At the time of the stoppage I had not given Quazghari a single round. An energised Mitchell said afterwards that working with trainer Tony Sims had given him a new lease of life and he felt “better than ever.” 

Of Sims he said: “He’s got me in unbelievable shape, doing different things in the gym and I’m back loving the sport again.”

Mitchell and promoter Eddie Hearn identified Tommy Coyle as a likely opponent for next year with the ultimate aim of securing another shot at a world title in 2014. Kevin talked of the future with confidence, which was great to see. His previous bids for world glory ended in failure, but on both occasions there were mitigating circumstances. He had well documented personal problems leading up to his TKO loss to a rampant Michael Katsidis in 2010 and his challenge for Ricky Burns’ WBO title last year was marred by fitness issues and a problematic training camp.

Boxing more than most professional sports is one in which age can be telling. As a lightweight at 29 Mitchell needs to move fast - the four seasons of success fly past and the winter chill sets in quickly. The Matchroom deal has got him busy again and given his career an Indian summer. If Kevin Mitchell can maintain the focus, intensity and sharpness he showed last night, the hope remains that his sheer natural talent can still carry him to the top of the world.

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