As May 31 looms large, so does the next chapter in the boxing career of Dagenham’s Kevin Mitchell (39 – 2).
Assigned with the unenviable task of a tricky, potential banana skin in the shape of Ghislain Maduma (16 – 0), the lightweight contender must overcome his Congolese counterpart to force a September showdown with Mexican technician and IBF champion Miguel Vazquez (34 – 3).
As part of a five fight card, Mitchell joins James Degale, Jamie McDonnell, Anthony Joshua, Carl Froch and George Groves in Britain’s biggest post-war fight with eighty – thousand fans expected.
No stranger to the big nights, a young Mitchell headlined in front of twenty – four thousand at Upton Park back in May 2010 when he was defeated by Michael Katsidis before coming up short against the WBO champion Ricky Burns at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow two years later, but the rejuvenated Londoner is excited at the prospect of fighting at the home of football.
”I’m expecting a big crowd and I’m going to enjoy it,” Mitchell told World Boxing News.
”In front of twenty – four thousand at West Ham, I was so nervous because I didn’t feel like I was ready for it, I knew I didn’t prepare for it properly and I wasn’t ready for it. Then going up into the lion’s den, Scotland, up In Ricky’s gaff – that was quite good, it didn’t really faze me at all – but fighting in front of eighty – thousand, it’s going to be massive, it’s unheard of – a once in a lifetime experience and it’s made history. I’m excited, I won’t let it bother me I’ll just enjoy it.”
Mitchell was widely seen to have underperformed on those nights considering his natural talent and previous showings in the ring and the man who gave him his last and second career defeat has proved to be a great benefactor today as the two train and spar under the watchful eye of Tony Sims at the Gator gym in Hainult. When quizzed about his preparations for Burns in 2012, Mitchell revealed that not living the life played a significant role and Burns has since helped in taking his game up to new levels.
”It’s not that I didn’t prepare properly. I didn’t have the right sparring for that fight.”
”If you go back ten months before that fight, where was I? I was in the pub and eating crap. Nine weeks before that fight I was eleven stone thirteen and I had to drop all that weight – I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be fighting an athlete such as Ricky Burns. I train with Ricky now and I realize what it takes to be as good as Ricky and what it takes for me to get there. Working alongside him lets me know even more now that I wasn’t ready to fight him. Working alongside side him for this fight I’ve come on loads just by sparring with him and training next him in the gym, I know what I have to do to get to that level.”
As Vazquez and that elusive world crown are within touching distance, Mitchell and particularly those in the boxing circle have warned not to underestimate the little known Canadian resident, Maduma. But the confident and switched on stylist believes he has his number and plans to come on strong late in the fight, before locking horns with the tricky Mexican they call ”The Puppet” in September.
”I’m not looking past him (Maduma). He can be a threat, I’ve looked at his skills, he’s got fast hands and you’ve got to be careful of him. I’ve got to make him work and sap his energy – that’s what I’m planning to do with him and that’s what I intend to do. I’ve got to take his energy from him early so that during the latter stages of the fight I’ll creep on and take him out.”
”He’s a great technician (Vazquez). You’ve got to be relentless with him, strong, work hard and hope that you get the job done you know, it’s just one of them fights – they’re 50/50 fights and they’re hard fights but I’m prepared for doing the twelve with him. To get my shot at him I’ve got to make this one count.”
Mitchell is full of praise for Tony Sims whom he has reacquainted with for the first time since his amateur days. The man who see’s over Anthony Joshua (5 – 0), Ricky Burns (36 – 3) and honed the skills of recently retired IBF middleweight champion Darren Barker (26 – 2) has re-energized the 29 year – old and the change of scenery is just what ”The Hammer” needed.
”He’s added to my stamina and strength. He works on me solid and it’s not just that, he’s like a mentor.”
”He tells me what I should and shouldn’t be doing, he explains it every day of the week – I’m with him all the time. He’s brilliant to me in the way he shows me about life – I used to enjoy that with him as a kid. He’d teach me about how to earn money and about going to work for my money which was good with Tony. He’s one hundred percent reignited my enthusiasm as well as Eddie (Hearn).”
Follow Lee Elford on Twitter at @LeeElford for Froch v Groves tweets during fight week and fight night