Kevin Mitchell showed the heart of a lion last Saturday in an ultimately losing battle against WBC Lightweight champion Jorge Linares. The 30 year old challenger boxed for the world title at the 02 in London as part of the massive Rule Britannia card.
It was Mitchell's third world title opportunity having fought in losing battles previously to Michael Katsidis and Ricky Burns. The form of the Essex fighter has been exceptional in the last 12 months having beat top world rated lightweights Ghislain Maduma and Daniel Estrada.
The passion and hunger from the challenger was obvious from his recent form, under trainer Tony Sims, Mitchell was convinced his new lease of life will make him a world champion admitting that the two previous chances of gold came down to his own undoing with his lavish party lifestyle.
The champion Linares from Venezuela is a heavy hitter but has been vulnerable before losing 3 professional fights all by knock-out. There was even more positivity for team Mitchell when the three weight world champion had to lose 4oz in two hours during the weigh in for the fight.
Come fight night the 02 Arena was buzzing with thousands in attendance hoping Kevin Mitchell can make it third time lucky.
Fight fans were not left disappointed as both boxers barely took a breath in each round with the champion bringing relentless pressure to his challenger. The Englishman avoided and boxed smartly through the fight but was still getting caught as both men were leaving it all in the ring.
The arena roared with pure joy as Mitchell knocked Linares down in the 5th round but the title holder hung in through the remainder of the round and appeared to be undamaged throughout the rest of the fight. The bombs thrown by the champion were having an impact as Mitchell started to gain horrific swelling on his left eye.
In the 10th both fighters went toe to toe with constant changes of pressure from the warriors but it was Linares who prevailed as he had Mitchell up against the ropes throwing a flurry of punches that dropped his challenger. The referee waved the fight off with 17 seconds left in the round.
What Next For Mitchell?
The agonizing reality of how close Mitchell was to becoming champion was revealed post fight as promoter Eddie Hearn informed us that if the challenger was able to hang on and finish the 10th round, the doctors would have stopped the fight on a technical decision (due to the eye swelling) leaving the judges scorecards declaring the victor.
On all three of the judges cards the Essex man was infront leaving the outcome of the fight that much more heartbreaking for British fight fans.
The bout is a candidate for fight of the year and no one would complain if there was to be a re-match, although many thought this may be the 30 year old's final shot at a world crown, there is the growing possibility that with his performance he has opened more gates to different world title chances.
Stable mate Anthony Crolla is boxing for the WBA Lightweight title next month against Darleys Perez and if the Mancunian was to win that then the possibility of a huge domestic title fight can get made, likewise for fellow English fighter Terry Flanagan who will be boxing for the WBO strap next month also. There is also the IBF champion Mickey Bey although the IBF stripped Mitchell of his final eliminator win last year due to not making weight overnight.
Eddie Hearn believes the lightweight lion heart will get his shot once again, Jorge Linares is arguably the best 135Ib champion in the world and the fact Mitchell was 17 seconds away from beating him will not upset the challenger, it will only spur him on until he has that world title firmly in his grasp.
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