The road to world title honours is a long one in boxing, Kevin “the hammer” Mitchell knows this perhaps as well as anyone prize fighting today.
At 31 straight wins (23 by KO) and no defeats you could argue rightly that he should have had his day in the sun quite some time ago.
Overshadowed by his previous stable mate – the chinny wonder Amir Khan, Mitchell did things the hard way – grinding out win after win against tough opposition. He didn’t always make it easy for himself though – always keen to have a war when a fight would suffice, Mitchell frequently traded power shots in the center of the ring and relied on brute strength and a concrete chin to get him through. Those of us that saw his 2008 fight against fellow Brit Carl Johanneson can perhaps recall just how difficult Mitchell could make a fight.
Mitchell really came of age though in his fight against Breidis Prescott – the teak tough Colombian knockout artist that destroyed Amir Khan in the opening seconds of their fight. For every opponent Khan has called out since you never hear him mention for a moment a rematch with Prescott. Mitchell was clearly making a statement with this fight and what a statement it was. For every minute of every round Mitchell resisted his previous form of storming in and banging a win out, instead he boxed beautifully – the sweet science in full flow. He went out and kept to the game plan his new trainer Jimmy Tibbs had designed and it worked in spades for him.
Kevin Mitchell dismantles Amir Khan's conqueror the Colombian brawler Breidis Prescott
Mitchell could always box though – I saw him way back when at York Hall, Bethnal Green and despite his obvious power and chin he had all the skills in raw form - more often than not he just chose not to use them! In his last outing Mitchell took apart another Colombian fighter – Ignacio Mendoza, lifting him off the floor with a sharp right hand in the 2nd round to close the show. Mitchell’s throws punches with ‘bad intentions’ as Mike Tyson used to call it and in boxing that’s an asset if you can back it up with real power, which Mitchell has.
On May 15th 2010 Mitchell will finally get his world title shot, on home turf at Upton Park. His opponent is seasoned brawler and tough man Michael Katsidis. Katsidis is genuinely world-class - he’s been in with Juan Diaz and Joel Casamayor and although losing to both he was by no means a walk over. Katsidis is guaranteed to come out guns blazing but I’m picking Mitchell to have far too much for the Australian and I see him stopping Katsidis to take the title. This is going to be a sensational fight – I’m going to be there to see it and I can’t wait.
For now he is in his last outing against Mendoza:
There has been an awful lot written about Ricky the hitman Hatton, but you will have to forgive me for adding to that mass of words with a few carefully chosen musings on why we should cherish the Hitman and not knock him.
Few modern fighters and especially British ones have captured the imagination of the public in quite the way Hatton has.
How did he achieve this?
The answer is to take the reader on a journey through a special type of boxer – to be more specific not just a boxer but a fighter. Hatton’s style is not polished or even defensively minded, Hatton is a brawler, a relentless, come forward, swarming, non stop killer. His boxing skills however are actually excellent – many a tough night he ground out a win against often bigger opponents (Juan Urango, Luis Collazo) using beautiful footwork and every ounce of the sweet science.
Pride in Battle
What won the fans heart though was his aggression – Hatton comes to fight, not to dance and avoid the action. You know what to expect from Hatton – he comes to take the other guy out – whether that’s one round or twelve. His often quoted comment that “it’s not a tickling contest” is a perfect description of this and Hatton’s unique personality.
Hattons personality saw him crossover from boxing star to British superstar – he is a man of the people, devoid of airs and graces and the trappings of fame. He is happy in his own skin, amongst his homeland of Hyde near Manchester. His sense of humour and wise cracking jokes won the British public over long before HBO’s excellent fly on the wall documentary 24/7 opened the flood gates up for the American fans to follow.
A special night - Ricky Hatton vs. Kostya Tszyu
I will personally remember a night at the MEN arena in Manchester where Hatton took the fight to Kostya Tzysu. He walked through fire that night – taking shots that could have dispatched tree trunks. He took it all and burst off his stool at the beginning of each round like he couldn’t wait to get back in there. It was perhaps the peak performance of Hatton’s so far.
So to the future – one foot in and one foot out of retirement. Two losses to the greatest fighters of his generation. I feel Hatton could do it all again – Erik Morales has shown the desire to lose 50 pounds of flab and come back taking shots and firing more back just this last weekend. For now I will just savour the fights he’s had and for me that’s enough for now!
Having been born above a boxing gym in Tijuana Mexico and boxing from the age of 5, it would never be easy for Erik “El Terrible” Morales to walk away from boxing.
On March 27th Morales will end his two and a half-year retirement and make his long rumored return to the ring. It’s a comeback that begs the question why? How much does Morales have left to prove after his part in two of the best trilogies in boxing history – against Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera? Without another paid punch in his life he would surely be a guaranteed fixture in the boxing hall of fame.
The prospect of possibly being the only Mexican fighter to win a world title in four separate weight classes is definitely a temptation. Morales old rival Barrera has already had his ambitions on that crusade cruelly stopped by Britain’s chinny wonder Amir Khan. A fourth fight with the worlds pound for pound best boxer Manny Pacquiao (not to mention the millions of dollars that would come with such a fight) must also appeal. Morales is after all one of the few fighters out there to comprehensively beat Pacquiao – in their first fight, so maybe he thinks he knows something Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton dont?
Could a fourth fight ever happen?
So it seems there are many question marks over El Terrible – not least the weight he has had to shift to get down to 147 pounds.
I hope he succeeds and isn’t annihilated by a far lesser opponent than deserves a win against such a boxing great, but the jury is definitely out on whether he can bring back the glory days once more.
For now lets remember him in his prime – in what HBO has rightly included as one of their ‘Fights of the Decade’ – here in his first of three amazing fights against his bitter Mexican rival Marco Antonio Barrera:
Many boxers exist on the periphery of fame and fortune, while their peers take easy fights against hand-picked opponents and hog the lime light.
True talent has a way of shining through though and Juan Manuel Marquez with blood, sweat and an iron will, has forced himself to the top of the pile and into most pundits Pound for Pound lists.
There were some shocking injustices along the way though – dodged by Prince Naseem Hamed for 22 straight fights when Marquez was his mandatory challenger, robbed of victories on score cards in his two fights with Manny Pacquiao (who has since avoided a third instalment of their saga like the plague).
It was those two fights with Pacquiao that perversely opened Marquez up to a wider audience. No one before or since has caused so many problems for Pacquiao. Marquez was knocked down three times in the opening round of their first fight and dragged himself off the canvas to fight back to a draw! That’s a phenomenal accomplishment. In their second fight Marquez was robbed by the Vegas judges – shamefully in my opinion.
A third fight with Pacquiao coming?
While Pacquiao went on to become the biggest name in boxing, Marquez went back to what he knows best – tough fights against hard opposition. Marquez has brought something new to the table at this stage of his career – the knockout finish. In my previous post on the uppercut punch I flagged up Marquez’s devastating use of this to close the show on Juan ‘Baby Bull’ Diaz.
Marquez’s last fight against Floyd Mayweather should tell fans more about his desire to face the best regardless of seemingly monumental advantages given to his opponents – Marquez was moving up 2 full weight classes to challenge Mayweather - who flouted the 145 pound catchweight to gain even more advantage.
Most of the attention in the run up to the fight for Marquez was on his declaration of drinking his own urine while training to ‘preserve nutrients’. While that would not be my choice of post workout beverage…each to their own I suppose! Mayweather recorded a wide points victory in that fight and watching I wonder whether Marquez had simply bitten off more than he could chew – Mayweather looked enormous next to him.
- The infamous urine ‘therapy’
Dinamita’s future is still to be decided – he is the current WBO and WBA world lightweight champion, rumors abound that he is poised to move up to light welterweight to chase Pacquiao once again for another fight. I hope he succeeds in securing that fight. Whatever happens Marquez is a one of the best boxers walking the earth today – a true ring general and a Mexican legend in the making.
What more can you ask for?
Perhaps the most devastating force in world boxing today, Edwin Valero stands on the cusp of mainstream success despite career setbacks that would have derailed lesser fighters.
In 2001 Valero riding a motorbike without a helmet was involved in an accident that resulted in a fractured skull and surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain. Cleared by a Venezuelan doctor to fight, in January 2004 he failed a brain scan for an upcoming fight with American network HBO and was banned from fighting in the US.
Forced to fight wherever would take him – and he spent much of his early career fighting in Japan. His southpaw stance, ultra aggressive style – walking his opponent down, cutting the ring off combined with his disregard for boxing basics – he keeps his guard low, head straight up and his chin exposed, mouth open as he punches, continues to bring a raw charm to this fighter.
A few facts and figures – he has won all 27 of his fights by knockout. 19 of those knockouts in the first round. That is devastating power.
In his last outing Valero added previously hidden boxing skills to the power and aggression that are his trademark – forcing the highly regarded Antiono De Marco to be pulled out by his corner at the end of the ninth round. Valero suffered a deep cut to the forehead in this fight (caused by an accidental elbow) – the WBC in its infinite wisdom has now made him “Lightweight champion in recess” while he recovers. A rumoured move to light welterweight – the territory of Amir Khan, Ricky Hatton and Timothy Bradley could and should propel this fighter to boxing mainstream.
If he could carry the power up two weight divisions to welterweight – as Manny Pacquiao has done, then big pay days in Vegas could lie ahead. Texas has now cleared Valero to fight there – a US audience and following is vital in today’s market.
So what are your thoughts? Does Valero have the boxing skills to compete in the hardest weight classes in boxing? Will his explosive power move up with him? Will the brain scan scupper mainstream US fights? Is there anyone out there better?
Here’s a little taste of him in action:
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