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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 May, 2004, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Mitchell Britain's hottest prospect
By Ben Dirs

Not since Nigel Benn have the capital's fight cognoscenti been so excited about an emerging talent.

Jostling at the bar following Kevin Mitchell's latest victory at Bethnal Green's York Hall, a sage old cove, veteran of a thousand and one boxing nights, pulled me in and winked: "World champion, son - put that in your pad."

Back in the York Hall's heyday, the same man no doubt witnessed Terry Spinks - like Mitchell a featherweight, and like Mitchell a product of West Ham Amateur Boxing Club.

Spinks' glittering amateur career culminated in Olympic gold in Melbourne in 1956 and he went on to win the British featherweight crown at the age of 22.

The 19-year-old Mitchell was no slouch as an amateur, winning four national schoolboy titles, a junior Olympics silver medal, a junior ABA featherweight title and the senior equivalent at his first attempt last year.

But, somewhat surprisingly, the "Dagenham Destroyer" spurned the chance of emulating Spinks and stepped up to the paid ranks a year before the Athens Games.

"I wanted to go but I was in the England team last year and more or less told I wasn't going because I didn't have enough experience - I'd only had five senior fights by then," explains Mitchell.

MITCHELL FACT FILE
Born: 29/10/1984
Turned pro: 17/07/2003
Division: Featherweight
Record: 7(6)-0
Style: Orthodox
Alias: Mighty/Dagenham Destroyer
Trainer: Johnny Eames
Managers: Frank Warren/Frank Maloney

All the more ironic, therefore, that Britain's sole representative in Greece will be the 17-year-old lightweight Amir Khan.

"It will be nice to see Amir do well - we need someone to bring back another gold medal. But my dream has always been to be a professional world champion."

Since turning pro, Mitchell, a muscular, double-barrelled boxer, has racked up seven victories and his bandwagon is gathering momentum.

Judging by his last outing on 13 May, a first-round beasting of 33-year-old Frenchman Slimane Kebaili, the whole of London's East End are clambering for a ride.

"I've always had a big support - people are backing me all the way and everyone's helping me out.

"I don't feel pressure because I'm just enjoying everything - the crowd are enjoying it, people on TV are enjoying it and I'm just going with the flow.

"You've just got to be very level-headed. If you let yourself believe what people say about you, you won't become what you want to be.

1956 Olympic flyweight champion Terry Spinks
Fellow West Ham ABA boxer Terry Spinks

"I see myself going for the British title at 21, then the European and I want three world titles at one weight by the time I'm 24 or 25."

Under Frank Warren's guidance and the tutelage of trainer Johnny Eames, Mitchell has every chance of reaching his goals.

Next up, the busy Mitchell is due to fight twice in one week - first on the undercard of Matt Skelton's heavyweight title fight at York Hall and then on the Calzaghe-Hatton double-bill seven days later.

And Mitchell hopes to ride on the coat tails of British boxing's most talented duo when they eventually cross the pond in search of bigger spoils.

"Hopefully I'll go over to Vegas or New York when they fight out there. I'd like to get over as early as possible and fight a different standard of fighter."

It is likely Mitchell, who has fought as heavy as 9st 11lb, will end up at around light welterweight or higher, the realms of two of his heroes - Oscar de la Hoya and Arturo Gatti.

"I'd like to be able to move like De la Hoya and have the heart of Gatti - but only time will tell whether I've got the ability," he said.

If Mitchell is as well-respected and much-loved as his fellow West Ham graduate Terry Spinks, he will have done well.


SEE ALSO
Mitchell to double-up
19 May 04  |  Boxing



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