Mitchell eyes Roman conquest ahead of return

Kevin Mitchell has received a major boost ahead of his return to the ring after being installed as No1 challenger for the WBO super-featherweight title

Kevin Mitchell has received a major boost ahead of his return to the ring tomorrow night after he was installed as the No1 challenger for WBO world super-featherweight champion Roman Martinez.

British champion Mitchell will be looking for his 28th straight win when he faces Kenyan rival John Gicharu at York Hall in an eight-round non-title fight that marks the East London fighter's comeback after 12 months out of action.

But the contest will also mark the start of Mitchell's preparations for a world title clash with Martinez, who took the WBO crown from Mitchell's stable-mate Nicky Cook at Manchester's MEN Arena in March.

Martinez is allowed one voluntary defence before facing his No1 challenger and is expected to bide his time before facing Mitchell.

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But it looks likely that the British champion will get his chance before the end of 2009 and his promoter Frank Warren is keen to bring the Puerto Rican world title-holder back to Britain for the clash.

With the world title challenge in sight, Mitchell is determined to come through in style against tough Kenyan Gicharu in his first fight since undergoing a hand operation to cure a long-time knuckle problem.

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"I can close the hand and make a proper fist now - I can tell in sparring that I am hitting much harder," Mitchell said of his recovery from the surgery.

Gicharu should provide a reasonable comeback test after recording 12 victories in 17 pro bouts.

The veteran has won his last two contests in Kenya following an unsuccessful four-fight British campaign that included a points defeat against former WBU champion Derry Matthews.

It could be a Mitchell family double on the York Hall bill with younger brother Vinny - another member of trainer Paul Cook's stable - looking for a ninth straight victory against Syrian opponent Youssef Al Hamidi in a four-round contest.

The Sports Network promotion is headed by Nathan Cleverly's Commonwealth light-heavyweight title defence against Sheffield challenger Billy Boyle.

North London heavyweight Derek Chisora, who is pressing for a British title chance against Danny Williams, is also in action along with unbeaten featherweight prospect Stephen Smith and Norfolk's Walsh brothers, Liam, Michael and Ryan.

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