Going into his world title challenge on Saturday, Kevin Mitchell garnered attention from the media for his newfound work ethic and battle with alcoholism. Although he would ultimately lose his battle with WBC lightweight titleholder Jorge Linares he gave a much better account for himself than in his two previous title challenges.
Mitchell (39-3, 29KO) started the fight well, showing no fear of the champion and landing some left hooks. Linares (39-3, 26KO) responded with a solid right hand which foreshadowed how the fight would end.
Mitchell stayed composed in the second and third round, even as Linares displayed his superior handspeed by firing quick combinations and snapping a laser-like jab. Mitchell took control of the range of the fight and began to make Linares miss with his shots in round four by staying just out of the champions’ reach.
In round five, Mitchell put his advantages together and landed a solid left hand to put Linares on the canvas for a knockdown. Linares has a history of unraveling when he’s hurt so Mitchell had a sense of excitement from the possibility to finally become a world champion. Linares managed to weather Mitchell’s follow-up onslaught and even forced the Englishman to back off with several quick combos to the head and body towards the end of the round.
Knowing his opponent wasn’t as hurt as initially perceived, Mitchell stayed composed in the sixth round, but this may have led to his downfall as Linares, although frustrated from his lack of success, began to slowly get back into the fight. Mitchell looked to be in control of the fight as he landed solid jabs and right hands, but Linares had success as well which kept Mitchell from stepping up the pace.
Going into the eighth round, the fight felt close but there could be no doubt Mitchell was ahead. An accidental head-butt sliced Mitchell’s left eyelid badly as a river of blood began to spew out. Vaseline could only do so much as the blood continued to pour in the ninth round. To make matters worse for Mitchell, Linares continued to pursue, landing solid right hands on Mitchell’s damaged eye which made the cut worse and began grotesquely swelling the eyelid.
Mitchell fought bravely, but the end came in round ten when Linares landed a hard right hand on the challenger’s jaw, staggering Mitchell to the ropes. Like a true champion, Linares stayed on his prey and began unloading combinations. Eventually, another right hand staggered Mitchell back into the ropes and a flurry of punches forced Mitchell to the canvas. Mitchell beat the count but his damaged face told the referee enough was enough.
In his second defense of his title, Linares has his most impressive victory as he managed to overcome a fierce challenge, something he’s failed to do in the past against the likes of Antonio DeMarco and Juan Carlos Salgado, to TKO Mitchell. Linares has always been praised for his fantastic speed and skill, but his losses left fans and critics unsure whether he would ever be able to fulfill his potential. He proved himself on Saturday.
Hopefully this won’t be Mitchell’s last title shot. He got blown away in his other two challenges for the title against Michael Katsidis and Ricky Burns, but this time he looked totally focused and determined. Credit needs to be given to Mitchell because the way he lost was the only way he was going to lose on Satuday.
Going out on his shield.