Kevin Mitchell didn't start well at all tonight at Wembley Stadium, but he flipped the switch in the middle rounds and stopped Ghislain Maduma in round 11 to perhaps set up a world title fight with Miguel Vazquez in his next outing.
Mitchell (38-2, 28 KO) came out looking flat-out lousy, as he appeared befuddled by the speed and style of Maduma (16-1, 10 KO), but as the fight wore on, Maduma's gas tank began to empty, and Mitchell took his openings. In the last few rounds of the fight, Maduma simply began to fall apart, and exhaustion caught up to him in the 11th, as he staggered around the ring while Mitchell threw everything but the kitchen sink at his opponent, scoring two official knockdowns, the second of which caused referee Phil Edwards to call a halt to the action.
Some are debating whether or not the stoppage was a bit premature, but there's no major controversy with this one. This is more the normal debate of almost any stoppage that doesn't come from someone being clearly finished on their back.
The IBF could opt to not allow Mitchell as their mandatory, though this fight was a final eliminator, because he missed the morning weigh-in by two pounds. The IBF allowed a 10-pound weight gain, and Mitchell had gained 12 after his Friday weigh-in. Eddie Hearn and Matchroom ought to be able to figure a way around that, though, and it's certainly the biggest fight out there for Vazquez, whose style is TV repellent in the States, but tricky enough that a lot of guys aren't exactly dying to fight him, either, even though he holds a world title.