Boxing: The Mitchell brothers get real

With mum 'Peggy' fighting their corner, boxing's East Enders are hitting the big time
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The Independent Online

Think the Mitchell brothers and Albert Square comes to mind rather than the square ring. However, the fight game's real-life version of EastEnders' gruesome twosome have ambitions to become equally familiar figures on the box this year, starting with their next violent episode on Saturday night.

Menacing promotional posters for their joint appearance aptly enough in the heartland of London's East End at York Hall, Bethnal Green may depict them more like Reggie and Ronnie than Grant and Phil, but for Kevin and Vinnie Mitchell this is a no soft soap.

Kevin, 23, tops the Setanta-screened bill with a defence of his Commonwealth super-featherweight title againstthe West African champion, Thomas Aryeetey of Ghana, after the British champion, Carl Johanneson, cried off with a back injury, while featherweight Vinnie, 20, meets Robin Deakin of Crawley in a supporting bout. Prominent at ringside, vociferously exhorting "Come on my sons", will be mum Alice, as feisty a blonde as her own TV alter ego. Inevitably, to the fraternity she is known as "Peggy".

Of the two, Kevin has already found a degree of fame as the sharp-hitting Dagenham Destroyer, winner of all his 24 fights. Promoter Frank Warren calls him the Wayne Rooney of boxing, with talents comparable to his stable's other meteor,Amir Khan. Vinnie, who still lives at home with mum and, until it bit him, an eight-foot pet python, is having only his third pro fight but is also tipped as a future champion.

These Mitchell brothers have been fighting all their lives, admitting to more than the odd punch-up in the school playground and streets of Dagenham before the discipline of the ring took them in hand.

Kevin, in particular, was a bit of a tearaway. "I was real aggressive. I'd fight everywhere. Nothing nasty, mind, only with me fists. Sometimes when I was little I'd look out of the window and see loads of other kids outside wanting to beat me up, but mum used to send me back out, saying, 'You caused the trouble, now get back out there and sort it out'. So I'd go out, chuck a few tins and chase them off."

Kevin says he was "dragged down to the boxing gym" as an undersized 10-year-old by his mother. "I've been knocking people cold ever since. I really enjoy it."

There have also been a few filial fisticuffs, "but not recently"says Kevin. "I think the last time he headbutted me. Or did I head-butt him? I can't remember. But we're good mates really and I think Vinnie has a great future. He was four times national schoolboy champion, and as a pro he's coming on bundles."

Kevin, who lives with his fiance, Amanda, and three-year-old son, Connor, is as Cockney as the pie-and-mash shop he plans to open for Amanda and his mum. As an amateur he was in the Khan class; 50 bouts, 45 wins, an ABA senior title and a Junior Olympics silver medal. His and Vinnie's unblemished pro careers have also run parallel,and there is speculation about an eventual meeting. Kevin has no doubts about the outcome. "I may be smaller but I hit harder. I'd knock him out."

Alice Mitchell is mum, mentor and virtual manager to both "my boys", having brought up them, and two elder sisters, after their father left home. "It's been a real up-and-down life," she says, "but they are great kids really. Kevin was a bit naughty, but not a really bad lad. He's always been good at heart. There's no real malice in him."

Alice's strong maternal influence is akin to that of Judy Murray with her tennis-playing sons Andy and Jamie. Warren reckons Mrs M is on the blowerto him so frequently it is a wonder his mobile hasn't given him a cauliflower ear. "If Kevin wants something sorted, it's me who gets on the phone to Frank," says Alice. "But he's OK, very fair. A soft touch really."

Warren sighs: "She's some lady. But I think it would be easier dealing with Mrs Murray." Or the other Mrs Mitchell.

family affair