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Dave Amos 14th May 2010 - 15:17

Mitchell will be blowing bubbles at Upton Park

Just over three years ago, Britain's Graham Earl was a British and Commonwealth lightweight champion looking forward to a crack at an interim world title on home turf. His opponent that night was a little-known Australian who boasted a pretty impressive record, but who had no experience at all of fighting outside his home country.

Michael Katsidis vs. Kevin Mitchell. Interim WBO lightweight title.
Upton Park, West Ham, London, United Kingdom.
Katsidis 11/8, Mitchell 8/15.

Some thought him to be a crude slugger who'd be picked off by a superior boxer, but what happened that night was the very definition of what Michael Katsidis is promising for Kevin Mitchell. A war.

Katsidis exploded out of the blocks, battering Earl and dropping him twice in the opening round, leaving himself open as well and taking several big shots to counter. During a sustained hammering in the second Earl's corner threw the towel in, but referee Mickey Vann ignored it and was right to do so, as Earl promptly stunned Katsidis and looked to have him in real trouble.

Katsidis hung on and the chaos was finally ended by Earl's corner at the end of the fifth, when they retired their man after five of the most frenetic rounds seen in a British ring.

Since that win, Katsidis put on a terrifying display of brutal boxing to beat Czar Amonsot before losing two in a row, first another up and down slugfest against Joel Casamayor in which he was down twice in the first and then a split decision loss to Juan Diaz, which in reality should have been down as a clear win for the American, as Katsidis was well beaten.

That may be the fight that provides the clearest indicator of how Kevin Mitchell will approach the daunting task in front of him, along with his impressive performance in beating Breidis Prescott last year, a dangerous puncher who Mitchell kept at bay for the full twelve and won a deserved verdict.

One major issue that may arise in this fight is each man's experience of top-level boxing. Since he first left his home shores Katsidis has experienced the aforementioned Casamayor and Diaz, as well as Jesus Chavez and the tricky Vicente Escobedo.

He's fought at a consistently high standard over the last few years whilst Mitchell, although he has yet to lose, would probably have Prescott as the biggest name on his record.

Recent opposition such as Ignacio Mendoza and Rudy Encarnacion never stood a chance against the Dagenham man, and it's not long since Mitchell was operating as a super featherweight.

One interesting fight at that weight was against Carl Johanneson, and Mitchell had to dig deep and find a way to win after definitely being hurt. If Johanneson can hurt him, Katsidis can knock him out.

But will Mitchell let him have the fight he wants? With a huge crowd backing him at his football team's home ground, there is the possibility that the occasion may get to Mitchell and the temptation to tear into an opponent who will only be too happy to see the fight go down that road may be too much to resist.

Mitchell must have the inner-strength to ignore these tendencies and stick to a boxing game plan. The Prescott fight can be the blueprint, and I'm sure he'll have seen how Diaz didn't allow Katsidis the chance to get into the fight. The crowd will want a war and Katsidis will want to give them one, but if Mitchell sticks to his guns and boxes, he has the ability to take a comfortable points win.


Danny Williams v Derek Chisora 

In the main support, the remarkable career of one of Britain's most enduring fighters may reach its conclusion, when Brixton's Danny Williams defends his British heavyweight title against Derek Chisora.

Williams has stated that this is to be his final fight and if so it would take a hard heart not to wish him well against the rather antagonistic Chisora, whose previous misdemeanours include kissing an opponent during the weigh-in stare down, and biting an opponent mid-fight.

This will no doubt have brought back fond memories for Williams, for it was against the man who infamously chewed a chunk out of Evander Holyfield's ear that he had his finest hour.

A partisan crowd, a trip overseas and a truly appalling referee did nothing to deter Williams when he stood up to Mike Tyson and knocked him out in the fourth in what was a truly sensational upset.

Tyson was past his best certainly, but he was a massive favourite to win and Williams deserved all the credit he received. Alas, the fairytale didn't end with a world title, and Williams was given a brutal hiding against Vitali Klitschko in his next fight, although he showed tremendous courage to keep coming back for more when his cause was hopelessly lost.

Chisora meanwhile is just starting out, and has been in twelve contests compared to Williams' fifty. He's the younger man by a clear decade, and brings an undefeated record to the table, although the standard of opponent is very much in the journeyman class barring an early win over the then undefeated prospect Sam Sexton.

Sexton went on to win Prizefighter and subsequently beat Martin Rogan twice, catapulting him up the rankings whilst Chisora remained fairly static, gaining a reputation for his obnoxious behaviour as opposed to his achievements in the ring.

It's quite hard to work out what Chisora will be like in his first fight over twelve rounds against such an experienced operator, but given Williams' tendency to capitulate under pressure these days, (he's admitted he's a shot fighter) it's not hard to imagine him starting aggressively and looking to get rid of Williams early doors.

2/7 for a man with very little experience against someone who, on his day, can flatten very decent heavyweights may be a bit of a risk. I'm inclined to recall Tyson Fury's fight against John McDermott when the former was expected to destroy the latter, but looked badly out of his depth and was rescued by an absolute joke points win.

Maybe the same will happen here, with Chisora suddenly realising very quickly that he's a novice against a seasoned pro, and for that reason, the 5/2 for Williams looks a little more tempting.


Other undercard fights

Elsewhere on the card two of Frank Warren's Olympic fighters, (and one who would have gone to Beijing as Britain's best bet for a medal had he not missed the weight) make the next steps in their respective fledgling careers.

The odds are reflective of the fact that these are more opportunities to try out different tactics and assess their individual professional development as opposed to being competitive sporting encounters.

Frankie Gavin and Billy Joe Saunders are both 1/100 shots to get past Gavin Tait and Andy Butlin respectively, and of course, they will. The only issue that can really be raised is a lack of regular competition for the pair, (Saunders made his debut in February 2009 and this will only be his sixth fight, Gavin debuted on the same night and has fought once more), but these opponents are tailor-made for the pair.

A knockout for Gavin would impress against the durable Tait, who's record reads an even 8-8, although that includes no stoppage losses, whilst Saunders should add another early victory to his CV in his second scheduled six-rounder.

Whilst Gavin never made it to the Olympic ring, James DeGale most certainly did, and recorded an impressive win in the semi final against the late Darren Sutherland before a nail-biting brawl against Emilio Correa of Cuba saw him over the line first for an unexpected gold.

Booed on his debut, perhaps more for his love or hate flash (some might say cocky) behaviour out of the ring, DeGale has hit back with some excellent showings against some admittedly very limited opponents.

No change here, with DeGale 1/50 to add Sam Horton to his list of conquests who brings an impressive paper record of 15-1, but with only two wins by stoppage and a collective opponent record of 83-266-13 for the men he's beaten.

One stoppage loss to the big punching Cello Renda is the only mark on his card, but I fancy that figure to be doubled on Saturday with DeGale forcing an intervention at some point in his first fight to be scheduled for the full twelve. Incidentally, this is Horton's first fight which can go the championship distance as well.



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