Kevin Mitchell 33-1 (24 KO’s) made a successful return to the ring at East London’s York Hall despite coming up against a tricky opponent in Felix Lora.
The 98-92 scorecard suggested a slightly easier outing for Mitchell than it was but Mitchell showed plenty of heart and grit to come through against Lora who fought like a man who had nothing to lose.
Mitchell had knocked down Lora in the second round with a big left hook but couldn’t capitalise after that. Lora would not leave Mitchell alone but the Londoner on his return was professional and effective in his reply.
Both fighters started cautiously but after the first punch was thrown both men went for the big shots early on with Lora swinging at every opportunity. Mitchell thought he had Lora down after 90 seconds but the referee deemed the fall a slip. Mitchell didn’t produce a gung ho start as many may have suspected instead he stood centre of the ring waiting for his opportunities in a professional manner.
The start of the second mirrored the opening minute of the first as both fighters battled for the centre of the ring but neither really connecting with their punches. That cagey opening took a turn for the better when Mitchell landed a big left hook on Lora who immediately collapsed to the canvas which sent the partisan crowd into cheers. The Dominican fighter managed to beat the count and then went on the offensive in reply.
The third was set up to be explosive but again both fighters stood off and waited for their chance to land their bog shots. It was far from easy for Mitchell who had to deal with the swinging attack from his Barcelona-based opponent before going on the offensive. He did just that as he took to the outside of the ring freeing himself up to make shots of his own.
Lora continued his wild style and landed the first shot of the fourth with a big right to the body but Mitchell again negotiated the danger posed and began to wrestle control of the inside. Lora though would not settle for the outside and continued to try and force Mitchell back.
Mitchell emerged from the fifth with a lot more purpose as he began to throw his combinations but Lora would not get out of the Dagenham fighter’s face. Tempers flared up at the end of the fifth when it seemed like a head was thrown into Mitchell’s face casing both men to come together.
‘Mighty’ Mitchell continued to work on the bloody nose of Lora in the sixth as the Dominican fighter began to back off. The Londoner took advantage coming forward and connecting with a number of jabs which drew further blood. Mitchell took the round comfortably with the tempo of Lora’s boxing style beginning to slow.
The 27-year-old was out-manoeuvring Lora and getting into positions to throw his effective jabs. Mitchell continued to target the bloody nose of the Spanish-based fighter whose face filled with blood as the round progressed. The only success Lora was getting was to force Mitchell onto the ropes but that didn’t last long with Mitchell showing the greater agility.
Mitchell’s jabs kept causing Lora problems in round eight while the Englishman easily blocked Lora’s attempts to maintain his earlier tempo. The former Intercontinental WBO lightweight champion was using all of his experience against a fighter who had nothing to lose.
As the fight progressed into the ninth it was clear Mitchell was ahead but Lora still looked dangerous. In the ninth Mitchell began to dominate as he took control of the centre and pushed Lora reluctantly on the outside. Mid-way through the round the Dagenham boxer landed a big left and then comfortably negotiated Lora’s reply before landing another left hook. Mitchell had fought himself through the tricky part and now began to assert himself late on.
The final round was always going to see Lora go on the attack as he was clearly behind on the judges score card. For the first part it wasn’t like that as both men tried to seek out the other. Then it exploded into a brawl as both traded big shots. Mitchell knowing it was in the bag backed off again and Lora didn’t follow allowing Mitchell to find his jabs and left hooks. Mitchell then found another which shook Lora, Mitchell sensed a knockout win but Lora held on to Mitchell trying to see out the remaining 30 seconds. The referee had to separate them but instead of going for it Mitchell stepped back knowing Lora had to come to him.
It was a lot harder than expected for Mitchell but he will take heart in coming through a tough test, his eyes will now look to the summer where he will bid to finally become a world champion.