17th July 2011

On Saturday night at The Echo Arena in Liverpool, the two best lightweight boxers in the country, finally met to put to bed the argument of ‘who really is the No1 boxer in the British 135lb division.
The WBO Inter-continental title was on the line, but the contest didn’t need a belt to add any kudos to this highly anticipated fight, but finishing up the title was just sweet icing on the cake for Mitchell.

After seven and a half rounds of compulsive boxing viewing, it was Mitchell who triumphed in this all action battle of Britain. A throw back clash, that lived up to the pre-fight hype and delivered in full. One man’s loss is another man’s great treasure and it was Mitchell who kept his nerve and his gameplan together to stop Murray in round eight and claim the crown as ‘King of the British lightweights’
Kevin Mitchell had to dig deep and take what Murray dished out – pic by Al Stevenson

The stage had been set and what a treat for British fight fans to see these two finally in the ring together. They had both stepped up to the plate and layed there reputations, heart and boxing future on the line. Murray with the longest unbeaten run in British boxing, 31 fights going in the fight and boasting English, British, European and International titles along the way, was on the cusp of a world title fight. 

But to his credit, Murray ‘The Manchester Machine’ believed his ethos of doing it the old fashioned way and beating all comers domestically, before his assault on the world scene, was a path he was willing to tread again, giving Mitchell an opportunity to challenge his world title contender status.

Londoner Mitchell, (32-1, 24KOs) who suffered his first defeat in his last fight against Aussie Michael Katsidis for the WBO title, some fourteen month’s ago. Took the chance offered to him by their joint promoter Frank Warren, to go straight back in against Murray, without any warm up fight and the gamble paid off for the Dagenham man! Leaving Murray with rebuilding work to do and himself in a prime position for a second crack at world title glory.

Kevin Mitchell’s left hook/uppercut was a key weapon  – pic by Al Stevenson

Mitchell 26, the former British and commonwealth super featherweight champion, started the fight brightly, willing to meet Murray head on using angles, distance and popping his shots off first from behind his jab, while the Mancunian frequently fell short with his lead right hand. Mitchell, looking sharp was willing to fight Murray inside, using uppercuts to jolt back his head, before getting out of range. Murray pressured in his usual marauding come forward style, seeking to trap Mitchell, but it was the Londoner, catching the eye – and the first session ended with a bloodied nose for Murray.

There was no where to hide and neither was looking, as they locked horns and punched each other backwards and forwards to the ropes, each trying to gain the advantage and landing good shots to head and body. Murray was guilty of neglecting his jab and he was loading up on his shots at times, but in round two, crashed one of his right crosses at full stretch, off Mitchell’s chin. Murray jumped on Mitchell, but he took the shots well and ended the round with his own flurry of punches.

At the start of the third round Mitchell pushed Murray away after an exchange of punches showing Murray that his strength was equal and as if to say ‘Im here’ – The tactics of both were looking evident now. – Murray was content on walking Mitchell down and unleashing a big right hand, when he did get inside, he tried to throw the left to head and body. – Murray looked set to wear Mitchell down, but his lack of head movement coming in and continually falling short, then getting caught.

Mitchell boxing on the back foot, was under no illusions that at times Murray would trap him, but was happy to trade inside when he had to and the uppercuts were his weapon of choice and it was effective, as Murray’s facial damage began to demonstrate his accurate shots. Murray landed another meaty right hand in the third round, that shuddered Mitchell to his boots. Murray didn’t let up and looked to be finding his range as he caught his rival with a follow up attack. Mitchell slipped and slided his way out of danger and again ended the round with his own dazzling combination.

Mitchell on his way to a histroric victory – pic by Al Stevenson
Murray continued to be the aggressor in the fourth, landing more punches than his opponent, but it was Mitchell who was ripping in the quality shots and there was a venom behind them. Mitchell made good use of his left hook come uppercut. After never having seen Murray hurt in a fight, you got the feeling he could and would be willing to take everything Mitchell threw at him and walk right through it. His plan to break Mitchell’s heart and wear him down seemed his intent.

In the fifth round it seemed Murray’s kamikaze, hands up, chin down all out attack, was beginning to have an effect on Mitchell and he was made to shift some cracking shots from Murray. Mitchell looked to be tiring and was pushed back by the Manchester man as the tide looked to be swaying in Murray’s favor. It was the best round of the fight for Murray, but Mitchell had taken the shots and cleared his head enough to return fire with fire to end some terrific blood and guts action.

Both were now carrying the signs of battle, but it was Murray who was coming off worse in the facial damage department and Mitchell’s accurate punches began to swell the eyes of his man. The sixth round had Mitchell back on his toes, but as Murray encroached, Mitchell planted his feet and let his own shots go with success, timing Murray coming in. Mitchell seemed to have gotten back his earlier swagger and claimed again the momentum after the previous bad session. A big left hook from Mitchell caught Murray on the bell and it was a shot that seemed to have had an effect on the teak tough Mancunian warrior. Mitchell raised his hand at the end of the round, he had sensed his moment!

Mitchell continued to grow in confidence and was looking strong again. Murray decided to try and use his jab, that had almost been extinct and began to land it well, putting his foe off balance. But again Murray smothered his work and just wasn’t getting his own punches off quick enough. His eyes were now swelling bad and were sure to be having an effect on him seeing Mitchell’s sharp shots coming in, especially his left uppercut that he was whipping in on full power.

Then came the turning point in this intriguing fight. Mitchell was taking centre ring and meeting Murray’s attacks head on. Then Mitchell’s threatening left hook landed flush on Murray’s jaw, it was instantly followed up by a vicious left uppercut, that eventually broke Murray’s resolve and he was in deep trouble, punched and rocked like never before. His legs dipped and he staggered forward. The punches were sickeningly delivered and how Murray stayed on his feet is beyond me. He took another big right hand and a left hook but somehow survived to the bell, but the break through had begun.

Murray staggered back to his corner and trainer Joe Gallagher push his injured man down on his stool and began to squirt water on the bruised head of his man to try and revive him. This was uncharted territory for Murray and cutman Mick Williamson went to work with the endswell on his swollen eyes. Mitchell now raised both his hands as he went back to his corner, with the utter belief he was now on his way to a famous victory.

Mitchell now in the ascendancy had earned the privilege of picking his shots with hurtful regularity, as Murray’s work rate slackened. Sucking gulps of air into his lungs, the Manchester man doest know any other way but to stand and fight and he continued to come at Mitchell, shaking the Londoner with a big left hook, that had him holding on! But Mitchell kept his composure and as Murray charged in, Mitchell threw a combination of hooks on the back foot, finishing with a thunderous left, that dropped Murray to his knees.

He rose at the count of four, but his legs were unsteady and he wobbled as he tried to regain his senses, stumbling into the ropes. Referee Ritchie Davis looked long and hard into Murray’s glazed almost closed eyes and gave the proud pugilist a chance to carry on. But Mitchell leaped on his wounded prey and threw four powerful left hooks all landing flush on Murray’s jaw, forcing the referee to jump in and save him from anymore punishment.

Mitchell’s arm is raised and Murray pays his respect – pic by Al Stevenson

It was a monumental victory for Mitchell, against the odds and after a long absence from the ring. He came back at the top and performed with great bravery and tactical nous to work Murray out, beat him up and then break him down in the manner that he promised to do. Mitchell deserves the accolades that come his way from this. John Murray’s lack of head movement during the fight, made him a constant target for Mitchell’s punches and he took advantage in grand fashion, boxing to orders from his coaches Jimmy and Mark Tibbs.

This fight wont be forgotten in a long time, the pair put friendships aside to give boxing the good old fashioned tear up, that was promised, but it was Mitchell who raised his game to a different level on the night and he is the one who will now go on to challenge for a world title. As for Murray, he will have to go back to the drawing board and devise a plan to get himself back in the picture. Mitchell as already offered Murray a rematch if he wins a world title and Mitchell v Murray 2 would now carry big appeal.

Mitchell has proved to himself that he can achieve his boxing dreams when he is focused and fight fit. After the defeat to Michael Katsidis he admitted he wasn’t in the correct frame of mind due to influences outside the ring. Them problems now seem to be behind him and a rematch and redemption against Katsidis the only man to beat him could be a possible option for Mitchell. On this form Mitchell would be a match for any of the top lightweights in the world.

By Chris Maylett 

Post Fight Press Conference

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