WHEN Dagenham’s Kevin Mitchell enters the ring to challenge WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns tomorrow night, he will be fighting for more than just another belt.
Mitchell believes that boxing’s latest Battle of Britain represents an opportunity for him to secure his family’s future, launch his fighting career, and finally banish the demons from his last true big fight.
“My life depends on this one fight,” Mitchell says. “That’s the way I look at it. I’m training like a mad man and I’m not overdoing it.
“Ricky’s my mate, but me job’s gotta be done. That’s the way I see it now. John [Murray] was me friend, but I had to go and win.
“The way I see it is that it takes my future earnings away from me [if I lose]. Not just my earnings, my kids’ future earnings. When my kids are 30 I want them to have a nice £1m house, and four or five flats paid for, their lives paid for, they’ll have a job and not going to want for anything – basically they’re made.”
Scotsman Burns and Mitchell have been friends for some time but tomorrow’s fight in Glasgow has long been inevitable, particularly after the latter so destructively put himself into world title contention with a thrilling knockout victory over the previously unbeaten, and strongly favoured John Murray.
It is the second real chance the Dagenham Destroyer has had at world level and this time, particularly after the dramatic fallout from his last when Australia’s Michael Katsidis devastatingly beat him within three rounds in front of 14,000 loyal fans at Upton Park, the West Ham fan knows it could be his last.
£180K ON ALCOHOL
“The experience – I should never have got in the ring, I should never have stepped through the ropes,” he says. “I was going through a bad time. I was spending a lot of money on alcohol.
“It was £180,000. And my last £1,000 I gave to a tramp in Romford. It wasn’t actually £1,000 – it was £1,000 with a rubber band round it and I took £20 out of it for a cab home. I’d taken £3,000 out of the bank, spent £2,000 in bars and clubs, and at the time I was really drunk. I remember seeing the tramp and feeling really sorry for him – he was only a kid – and I gave him the £1,000. He was jumping in the bins to try and get stuff out of them, so I called him over and said ‘here you are, go and get yourself a nice meal’.”
Before fighting Katsidis, Mitchell was separating from his partner amid an array of domestic rows that undermined both his mindset and training camp – “It was my family. When you’re a kid growing up, you want your family all to be in one place and I’d split from me family and that was all going on about a month before the fight” – but this time he is adamant that nothing has been left to chance.
SURE OF VICTORY
“I trained out in Canada, in Montana, I was running and doing altitude training,” he says. “It was a bit like Rocky. It was a long way out from the fight but I thought two weeks there would do me well.
“Everything’s perfect this time. I see me kids four days a week, I have a brilliant relationship with my babies, so I’m happy. I’m training all the time with Jimmy Tibbs.
“It’s all down to the preparation. When I’m prepared right, there’s nothing stopping me.
“Trust me, I promise you that – I know the outcome of this fight already. I’m not going in there half-hearted; I’m not messing around.
So what next for Mitchell, should he succeed and become London’s latest world champion?
“I want to win a title, hopefully get a big fight in Vegas, draw the American crowd to England, defend at the O2 Arena in the winter, and in the summer at West Ham. That’s how I want it.”