Remember when? ... Mitchell fought Katsidis
Jack Laidler takes a trip down memory lane to recall the May night in 2010 when Kevin Mitchell faced Michael Katsidis in front of a large home crowd at Upton Park...
Towards the end of May, close to 27,000 people crammed into Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium to witness the triumphant return of their hero, the IBF welterweight champion, Kell Brook against Errol Spence Jr.
Or that’s how the story was supposed to go.
A few weeks after the events of Anthony Joshua’s momentous coming of age at Wembley stadium, British boxing fans expected another jubilant victory in the centre circle of a historic football stadium.
Brook’s eleventh round stoppage defeat to Spence Jr is not the only disappointment to fall upon a British boxer fighting in front of their own fans in the football stadium they adore.
Turn the clock back seven years to 15 May 2010 - Kevin Mitchell was 31-0. His career had been near perfect. He had already picked up the British and Commonwealth super-featherweight titles whilst also improving his world ranking by picking up an abundance of Inter-Continental straps.
Only six months previously Mitchell had stepped up to lightweight to face the hard hitting Breidis Prescott. The image of Prescott destroying Amir Khan in less than 3 minutes was still very much fresh in the minds of British boxing fans.
In what should have been his biggest test to date, Mitchell turned on the style. His superior movement, defensive skill and lighting quick combinations gave the man from Romford a wide point’s victory.
World honours seemed a certainty. With the promise of a tilt at the world title next, Mitchell agreed to fight Michael Katsidis for the interim WBO lightweight title.
Katsidis was not seen as a pushover. He was heavy handed and was in his second reign as interim champion. He had been unbeaten at 23-0 before coming up short against Joel Casamayor, the former gold medallist and two weight world champion from Cuba.
Even so, Mitchell was tipped by many to win. He had faced hard hitters like Prescott and Carl Johanneson before and on both occasions had come away with the win. The stage was set for Mitchell announce himself on to the world scene.
Mitchell’s beloved Upton Park, home of West Ham United, was to be the venue. Around 14,000 flocked to the stadium anticipating the biggest win of his career. A rendition of 'I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles' greeted Mitchell in the ring.
The stage was set.
As the two fighters came together it was instantly noticeable that Katsidis was the bigger man. The Australian pushed forward from the opening bell. Mitchell was accurate with his jabs at distance but cautious in over committing. Worryingly, however, on multiple occasions Katsidis had his man up against the ropes, throwing powerful hooks that broke the challenger's guard several times.
The second round went by without incident. Mitchell looked the more classy, popping out combinations whilst Katsidis continued following him around the ring.
The third started more frantically. Katsidis began with his usual in-your-face style. He began to open up before then taking a step back, inviting Mitchell to move forward and through his own combinations. As they traded shots Katsidis dipped down and caught Mitchell flush to the chin - the man from Romford was in trouble.
With still over two minutes remaining of the round, Mitchell began to be chased around the ring. He was taking big punishment. Mitchell managed on multiple occasions to throw combinations that landed flush on the chin of Katsidis, however at this point his punches carried no real threat. Unable to keep the Australian off, Mitchell was forced back to the ropes.
With just over a minute to go in the round Mitchell was caught with a left hook that stunned him, he swayed into the ropes and, as his hands dropped, Katsidis followed up with a flurry of punches, all catching Mitchell flush in the face as the referee jumped in to end the annihilation.
Mitchell had been destroyed in less than three rounds.
Although this by no means was the end of Mitchell at the top level, (he would later go on to unsuccessfully challenge both Ricky Burns and Jorge Linares for the world title) this was the moment the frailties of the previously unbeaten star were discovered for all to see.
Mitchell would eventually retire after a stoppage defeat to Ismael Barroso in December 2015 without ever having held a world title.
That night at Upton Park shows that although Kell Brook’s defeat will inevitably be tough to take, the Sheffield man can take solace in the fact that his stadium defeat was in no way as comprehensive as the reverse that Mitchell endured.