Kevin Mitchell stops John Murray in eighth round

By Nabil HassanBBC SPORT
Kevin Mitchell (l) and John Murray
Mitchell (l) inflicted the only career defeat on Murray on Saturday

Kevin Mitchell claimed the vacant WBO inter-continental lightweight title with a superb victory over the previously unbeaten John Murray.

Manchester's Murray seemed to be shading the fight in the opening five rounds but a change in tactics swung the contest Mitchell's way.

Mitchell rocked Murray with a left in the seventh but the bell saved him.

But the 26-year-old finished the job a round later, flooring Murray before the fight was eventually stopped.

It was a sensational victory for the Dagenham fighter, who had been out of the ring for over a year following his third-round defeat to Michael Katsidis - his only career loss.

Mitchell admitted following that defeat that he had then lost his way, but this victory is proof that he is now back on track.

He made the better start to the fight and was the more accurate of the two fighters with his punches. In particular his left-hand uppercut had more snap than Murray's.

Mitchell again made a strong start to the second and looked in control of the round until a fierce right-hook from Murray rocked the challenger. It spurred Murray on and a further barrage on his opponent shaded the round in his favour.

Mitchell - sensing he was being dragged into a toe-to-toe brawl - started to move around the ring and box behind the jab, but Manchester's Murray eventually closed off the ring and caught up with him, catching his opponent with several fierce shots.

Murray, 26, continued to be the aggressor in the fourth round, landing more punches than his opponent but it was Mitchell who was landing the quality shots in what was becoming a fascinating contest.

The pace and volume of punches was starting to take its toll on Mitchell in the fifth as the fight started to swing firmly in Murray's favour. It was the best round of the fight for the Manchester man who seemed unconcerned by Mitchell's punches and whose pace was relentless throughout.

But Mitchell looked to have cleared his head in the sixth, with Murray reduced to short bursts, and he finally started to show his boxing ability and reverted to the 'box and run' game plan that served him so well against Breidis Prescott in 2009.

The Dagenham fighter continued to grow in confidence, throwing several accurate combinations in the seventh and a huge right hand, left-uppercut combination by Mitchell late in the round rocked Murray to the core and only the bell saved him from being knocked out.

Mitchell went after his man at the start of the eighth and despite a fierce left from the Manchester fighter a huge left sent Murray to the canvas.

Murray, who was shaky as he rose to his feet, was lucky to be able to continue but seconds later the fight was over as Mitchell sent in another combination that saw the contest stopped by the referee.

Earlier, Ricky Burns secured a first-round victory against Nicky Cook who appeared to injure his back in trying to avoid a punch while Tony Bellew added the vacant British light-heavyweight title to his Commonwealth belt.

Bellew could be in line for a fight against WBO champion Nathan Cleverly having had to pull out of one contest against the Welshman after failing to make the weight having been brought in as a late replacement.