Mitchell's school of hard knocks… Londoner ready for redemption against Burns
06:47 GMT, 20 September 2012
Putting aside the bluster and hype
that invariably surrounds the challenger in a world title bout, Kevin
Mitchell managed to sound entirely convincing when discussing the
prospect of ending Ricky Burns’ reign as WBO lightweight champion.
Two-and-a-half years ago, Mitchell’s chances against the 29-year-old champion from Coatbridge would have been considered slim at best. The Londoner, after all, was a man who had shoved his finger down on the self-destruct button.
The break-up of his relationship had sent the 27-year-old Cockney completely off the rails. His moment of clarity came when he entered the ring against Michael Katsidis and immediately realised he was in no fit state to seriously challenge the Australian for his Interim WBO lightweight title.
Bring it on: Kevin Mitchell feels confident about facing Ricky Burns in the Battle of Britain
Time to shine: Dagenham boy Mitchell has arrived in Glasgow to finalise his preparations for this weekend's big title fight
Months of excess and late nights spent propping up various bars resulted in Mitchell, once hailed as a prodigious talent when he signed with promoter Frank Warren, suffering a humiliating third-round defeat.
But Mitchell insists he is a changed man. And his superb physical condition and sharp mental reflexes certainly appear to support his argument.
Holding court at the Glasgow gym of Burns’ manager Alex Morrison, Mitchell declared ahead of Saturday evening’s SECC showdown: ‘When you’ve gone through tough times outside the ring it makes you a better person because you know about life.
‘My mum always said I would learn the hard way and I have. Being away from my kids caused me problems but I now see them four days a week and I’m sorted.
‘I’m very hungry,’ he insisted. ‘I could say it’s probably my last big chance. I’ve worked like an animal. The training I’ve done has been crazy. I want this world title.
‘I want to earn my money and my kids’ inheritance. So basically, it’s my kids’ future that I’m trying to stabilise, and that’s a very big motivation for me.’
Showtime: Mitchell is determined to beat Burns (pictured) in front of the Scottish fans
Changed days indeed for the London fighter, from the broken man who climbed into the ring against Katsidis in 2010.
‘There were days I didn’t even turn up for the gym,’ Mitchell admitted. ‘Two or three days at a time. I had a lot of problems.
‘I was an inexperienced young boy. I should have pulled out that night, I shouldn’t have gone ahead with the fight.
‘But me being headstrong, and I’m not a bottle-dropper, I wouldn’t pull out. There was inexperience in me but, as a man, I have come on bundles since then.
‘This time round I’ve been training hard, working hard and am happy in myself. And basically, you can’t beat a happy fighter.
‘I‘ve trained really hard for this fight and the two weeks I spent in Montana, running in the Rocky Mountains at the start of my camp, got me in shape early.
Ready to rumble: Burns (R) will defend his WBO World Lightweight title against Mitchell in Glasgow
‘It’s only when you know in your heart that you haven’t prepared properly that you’ve got a problem. When you’re in great shape, it’s easy.
‘Ricky’s been a great champion and I have the utmost respect for him, but I’ve had to fight for everything since I was a kid and I know exactly what I’m capable of — and I’m capable of winning this fight.
‘I believe I will have too much for Ricky — faster hands, more power and better agility, and my hunger is also greater than his.
‘I’ve had my problems in the past but, at the minute, my hands are sweet, no niggles, and they’ve got me feeling like Superman.
In the spotlight: Mitchell has a second chance to win a world title
‘Ricky is quality but I’m not at all worried about coming into his backyard. It’s a sporting occasion and, once we have shown what we’re made of, I am sure the crowd will applaud both of us.’
Mitchell’s trainer, legendary London cornerman Jimmy Tibbs, gave credence to the boxer’s words when he added: ‘Kevin is in the best shape of his career and he’s ready for anything, including going to war if he has to.
‘He’s mentally very strong. He had a bit of a breakdown before he fought Katsidis but he came back against John Murray and stopped him and, good boxer though he is, Ricky doesn’t punch as hard as Kevin.
‘It could well go the distance. But I believe Kevin punches twice as hard.’
Burns v Mitchell is live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546). Join at: www.boxnation.com