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Kevin Mitchell ‘ready for world title’ after falling back in love with boxing

Kevin Mitchell (right) strikes Karim El Ouazghari during his IBF Intercontinental lightweight title defence. Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images Kevin Mitchell (right) strikes Karim El Ouazghari during his IBF Intercontinental lightweight title defence. Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Sunday, December 15, 2013
5:17 PM

Kevin Mitchell says he’s back in love with boxing and ready for a third world title shot after despatching Karim El Ouazghari in a technical count out (TCO) at the ExCel Arena last night.

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The ‘Dagenham Destroyer’ saw off the Spaniard - a late replacement for Cuban-born Italian Brunet Zamora - in the ninth-round to retain his IBF lightweight intercontinental strap.

It was the 29-year-old’s third fight in five months – all victorious after being stopped in four rounds by Ricky Burns in his challenge for the world WBO crown last year.

Mitchell can now look forward to a proposed final eliminator against Hull’s Tommy Coyle next year and, if he comes through that, a potential shot at the IBF title of Mexican Miguel Vazquez.

If it materialises he will be hoping it’s third time lucky having also been stopped inside three rounds by Australian Michael Katsidis in a glitzy but doomed maiden world title challenge in 2010 at Upton Park.

“I feel better than ever,” he said, adding: “Tony Sims (trainer) has got me in unbelievable shape and I’m back in love with the sport - I was out of love with it for a few years.

“I said to Tony a few months back, I was 25 fighting for those titles at West Ham football ground, [and] as a person I wasn’t mature enough.

“I’m 29 years of age now, I’m mature I’m in a great place, in the gym 24/7 and I’m ready for the world title.”

Mitchell had been lined up to fight Zamora but the 39-year-old was denied an exit from his homeland in midweek.

El Ouazghari stepped in at less than 72 hours notice and his challenge was brought to a halt in a strange stoppage, two minutes and seven seconds into the ninth.

Mitchell backed the Barcelona man into the corner, only for the 33-year-old to stop boxing, pointing to an injured bicep. Quite within his rights, the home fighter rained in blows that saw referee Marcus McDonnell wave off the contest as a towel was thrown in from the challenger’s corner and a trainer ran in front of the bemused champion.

“I think my shots took their toll in the end,” Mitchell said, adding: “I never mean to hurt anyone. I just let my shots go and I’m in there to finish him off, not let him recover.”

Mitchell started strongly but had to beware of some wild, swinging shots from El Ouazghari, yet a left-hook unsteadied the Spaniard and he was later shoved to the canvas.

‘The Hammer’ set his stall out with a stiff jab that his rival had few answers to and a particularly accurate effort in the second session rocked El Ouazghari back while a three-punch combination troubled him further.

A skilful defensive show in the middle rounds often left ‘El Diablo’ punching thin air and, when he did find the target, Mitchell soaked up the shots and exploded back into life.

A right cross-jab combination in the fifth stopped the older fighter’s attempt to gain a foothold in the fight, while a right hook in the next stanza stiffened El Ouazghari’s legs once more, albeit momentarily.

From the eighth, Mitchell increased the number punches in his combinations and the pressure began to take its toll – the standout efforts of the penultimate round being a left hook to the body followed quickly by a right to the head.

El Ouazghari had complained of niggles a few times throughout the fight, including hits to the back of the head that no-one had seen, not least Mr McDonnell.

So, after a noticeable increase in intensity, the Spaniard committed the cardinal sin of failing to protect himself, pointing to his arm, while Mitchell did the professional thing. In came the towel and the trainer, while the Dagenham hitter can look forward to a promising 2014.

In the night’s headline fight, Colchester’s Lee Purdy put in a brave challenge for the European welterweight crown but was outclassed from the first bell by Italian Leonard Bundu and was finally knocked to the mat twice in the 12th and final round.

Further down the bill, Ricky Boylan won a Southern Area lightweight championship contest against fellow Charshalton fighter Tony Owen, stopping his friend in four rounds, while in the welterweight version Floyd Moore beat Upminster’s Ryan Taylor inside the same distance.

Anthony Ogogo returned the scene of his London 2012 Olympic triumph with a points victory over Dan Blackwell at middleweight in his first pro bout for over a year.

Also on the bumper card, there was a stoppage victory for Canning Town cruiserweight Wadi Camacho over John Anthony and Edgeware’s Ben Ileyemi drew against Danny Fleary in a four round cruiserweight contest.

Former IBF world bantamweight champion Jamie McDonnell and British super middleweight champion Paul Smith both won on points over Abigail Medina and Jamie Ambler respectively.

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