Khan v Mitchell. Who wins?

by John Wight: This coming Saturday, two of British boxing’s biggest stars face their next opponents on opposite sides of the Atlantic. In London what promises to be a war between Dagenham’s Kevin Mitchell and Australia’s Michael Katsidis at lightweight is scheduled to take place at the iconic venue of Upton Park, home of West Ham United FC and a veritable shrine to the pride of the capital’s famed East End.

Meanwhile, at the equally iconic venue of Madison Square Garden in New York, the first and only Mecca of boxing no less, Amir Khan makes his US debut under the auspices of Golden Boy against Brooklyn’s tough-talking and super confident Paulie Malignaggi in the 140 lb division..

The coincidence of Kevin Mitchell and Amir Khan fighting on the same night against different opponents couldn’t have been better if it was planned. It sets them up for comparison, creating even more interest in a future match-up as what might well be the rivalry British boxing fans have been waiting for since the heady days of Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank starts to take shape.

Before going on to ponder any future encounter, however, it’s important not to dismiss the fighters who will stand in their way on May 15. Particularly in the case of Kevin Mitchell, such complacency would indeed be folly, but given the focus which both Mitchell and Khan bring to the table there seems little if any chance of that happening.

Interestingly, the first stirrings of a war of words has begun between both fighters in the press over the past few weeks, each proclaiming with the kind of confidence you might expect that they would defeat the other. Adding to this nascent rivalry is the matter and manner of Khan’s departure from the Warren promotions stable to sign with Golden Boy in the US. Not a man to mince his words, Frank Warren has made his disappointment and disgust over his erstwhile superstar’s departure known. However for Warren the timing of Kevin Mitchell’s arrival onto the world stage could not have been better, announced with his scintillating victory over Colombia’s fearsome Breidis Prescott, the only man thus far to register a defeat on Khan’s record, which ironically came in Newcastle last December on the undercard of Khan’s last fight.

The vast improvement in the Dagenham man’s all round game since teaming up with Jimmy Tibbs has been significant, which is why Warren’s confidence that his new star possesses both the minerals and the skill to defeat Khan can be put down to more than mere bluff.

As for Khan, he’s enjoyed a professional renaissance since decamping from Bolton to Los Angeles after his crushing defeat by Breidis Prescott 18 months ago. Under Freddie Roach’s tutelage his performances since that defeat have revealed vast improvements, particularly with regard to defence and balance, thus helping to cement Roach’s status as the pre-eminent trainer in the sport. Khan’s progress also attests to the quality of sparring he now gets on a daily basis at Wildcard, which every fighter knows is absolutely crucial at world level.

So who will come out on top if and when they do touch gloves in the centre of the ring?

Those who opt for Mitchell will point to the widely held belief that Khan’s chin is as brittle as the Greek economy and that their man holds within his fists the sleeping gas to put him away.

But as with many such widely held beliefs, further investigation often throws up a different conclusion. When it comes to Khan’s chin, the pre-Roach model was prone to jumping into the pocket throwing wild flurries of punches and pitching himself off balance in the process. The knockdown which Khan suffered at the hands of Scotland’s Willie Limond back in 2007 happened as a result of this tendency and not to a suspect chin, as commonly believed. Even more important is the fact that the punch with which Breidis Prescott nailed Khan after that was so good it would have nailed one of the Klitschkos (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea).

All this talk then about Khan having a chin that shatters like glass would appear to be misplaced after closer examination of the evidence. This isn’t to diminish the fact that Kevin Mitchell has the power to cause Khan some real problems. There is no question that he does. However, with many if not all of the bad habits which Khan carried with him from the amateurs to the pros having been ironed out under Roach, I don’t see anything like the possibility of another Prescott-style outcome to this fight.

Instead, with Khan’s speed and accuracy, not to mention considerable power, I see Khan emerging victorious from this one.

What do you think?

Article posted on 13.05.2010

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