The most exciting bout on a packed bill looks to be the match-up between Jorge Linares and Kevin Mitchell. It's a meeting between two quality boxers who carry knockout power but have also shown vulnerabilities during their careers.
Linares will be making the first defence of the WBC title he won late last year against Javier Prieto, who he blasted out in four rounds. The victory made Linares a three weight world champion, despite this, he's always been viewed as someone who hasn't fulfilled his potential. Personally, I don't go along with that, he's shown how talented he is over a number of years but has also shown that he hasn't got the solidest chin around.
Which brings us to Mitchell. This fight should provide the definitive answer about his questionable chin. He's been hammered by Michael Katsidis inside three rounds and made Ricky Burns look like Julian Jackson, but on the flip side, he took heavy shots from John Murray and Carl Johanneson. Those two losing performances against Burns and Katsidis have been put down to problems out of the ring, and whilst Mitchell has looked a much improved fighter since the Burns loss, this will be the first time he's stepped back into the top level against someone who can hit.
At thirty, Mitchell is well aware that this could be his last chance at winning a world title. A quick knockout loss like the aforementioned two would surely see him slide down the rankings in what's a strong division. That carries added pressure for Mitchell, which brings us to the other question mark by his name - mental toughness. He's shown character in the past, most noticeably against Murray, but he's fallen apart twice in the two biggest fights of his career.
Linares has very similar weaknesses; he's been taken out early twice, in a round by Juan Carlos Salgado and in two by Sergio Thompson. He's also fallen apart late when losing to Antonio DeMarco in a fight he was way ahead on the cards in. Linares was cut, bloody and tiring but only had to see out another four minutes to claim a wide UD victory when he was stopped on his feet. Linares' heart was questioned after the fight but who knows how hurt he was with DeMarco pouring the pressure on and landing some solid left hooks. However, the question mark remains.
Just like their weaknesses, both are very similar when it comes to their positive attributes. Both are lovely technicians, both have a textbook jab, a quick left hook and an accurate straight-right, and both can hit with power. Linares has the edge when comes to footwork and hand-speed but Mitchell looks to be the stronger at the weight and holds the edge in stamina, noticeably carrying his punch power late into a fight.
Anything could happen in this fight. It's not inconceivable that one of them gets taken out early, however, the most likely outcome is that one falls apart after taking too many clean blows. Mitchell can't afford to be careless or allow himself to get drawn into a brawl, he's got to box with a similar discipline to what he produced when outpointing Breidis Prescott back in 2009. If Mitchell can produce such a performance and handle the pressure of the occasion, he'd be fancied to force a late stoppage, it's a big if though.
Linares must be regarded as the favourite, he's proven at world level, is on a great run of form and has the speed and accuracy to punish any mistakes Mitchell makes. It'll be entertaining whilst it lasts but it'll be a surprise if the judges are needed. It will take a career best performance for Mitchell to win and I can't help feeling that he may just fall short of what's required with Linares halting the Englishman around the sixth round.