Kevin Mitchell hadn't fought in the 14 months since his first pro loss to Michael Katsidis, and he'd also gotten into some trouble outside of the ring. But he put everything aside today in Liverpool, stopping John Murray in the eighth round and scoring a career-best victory in what was a career-best performance from the Dagenham native.
Mitchell (32-1, 24 KO) utilized a great left uppercut throughout the bout to repeatedly sting the pressure-fighting Murray (31-1, 18 KO). After six rounds, Bad Left Hook had it 58-56 Mitchell, with many having the fight even at that point. It had been a great little battle and clash of styles, as Mitchell tried to find some breathing room to bang away at the rugged Murray, whose pressure was effective. The two were essentially even at that point.
But late in the seventh round, Mitchell hurt Murray badly, and Murray had to be saved by the bell to end the round. With both eyes swollen and cut, Murray banged his gloves together and charged into Mitchell to start the eighth round, in what looked like and then turned out to be a last ditch effort to turn the tide back in his favor. Instead, he walked into some great shots from Mitchell, who floored Murray and then moments later finished him off after the referee gave Murray a final shot to come back into the fight.
For Mitchell, this has to be an extremely satisfying win. He had a good game plan, fought Murray hard, put on a good fight, and looked better than ever in the win. For Murray, it's a fairly crushing defeat. His tactics were the same as always and he fought as well as he usually does, but Mitchell was just too good for him, too versatile offensively, and the left uppercut was a major problem for Murray. Murray simply wound up eating too many shots.
Mitchell still has some court dates to deal with, but right now he's back in business in a big way, and has proven his worth in the changing lightweight division. Would a rematch with Michael Katsidis sound good to anyone else right now? In a division that is losing top fighters like Juan Manuel Marquez, Robert Guerrero and Humberto Soto -- who are all moving up in weight -- Mitchell breaks through with this win as a legitimate contender, and Katsidis remains a name in the division.
As for Murray, he'll just have to go back to the drawing board. The loss will hurt short-term, but is definitely something he can learn from. Fighters who fight like Murray always run into this sort of guy, the fighter they can't just walk down and overwhelm. Murray could become a better fighter after his first loss. Mitchell apparently has done just that.