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JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ vs. MICHAEL KATSIDIS
When: Saturday, Nov. 27
Where: Las Vegas
TV: HBO Pay-per-view, 6:45 p.m. PT / 9:45 pm. ET
Weight: Lightweight (135 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: Marquez’s RING magazine championship (and WBA and WBO titles)
Also on the card: Andre Berto vs. Freddy Hernandez, 12 rounds, for Berto's WBC welterweight title; Celestino Caballero vs. Jason Litzau, 10 rounds, junior lightweights; Nate Campbell vs. Walter Estrada, 10 rounds, junior welterweights; Erislandy Lara vs. Tim Connors, 10 rounds, junior middleweights
Height / Reach: 5-7 (170cm) / 67 (170cm)
Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico
Turned pro: 1993
Record: 51-5-1 (37 knockouts)
Trainer: Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain
Fight-by-fight: Click here
The Ring rating: Lightweight world champion
Titles: IBF featherweight (2003-05; was stripped of title); WBA featherweight (2003-05; was stripped of title); WBO interim featherweight (2006; vacated to move up in weight); WBC super featherweight (2007-08; lost title to Manny Pacquiao); THE RING world lightweight title (2008-present); WBA and WBO lightweight (2009-present).
Biggest victories: Marco Antonio Barrera, March 17, 2007, UD 12 (to win WBC super featherweight title); Joel Casamayor, Sept. 13, 2008, TKO 11 (to win THE RING world lightweight title); Juan Diaz, Feb. 28, 2009, TKO 9; Diaz, July 31, 2010, UD 12.
Worst losses / draw: Freddy Norwood, Sept. 11, 1999, UD 12 (for Norwood’s WBA featherweight title); Manny Pacquiao, May 8, 2004, draw 12; Chris John, March 4, 2006, UD 12 (for John’s WBA featherweight title); Pacquiao, March 15, 2008, SD 12 (lost junior lightweight title); Floyd Mayweather Jr., Sept. 19, 2009, UD 12.
Height / reach: 5-7 (170cm) / 66 (168cm)
Hometown: Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
Nickname: The Great
Turned pro: 2001
Record: 27-2 (22 knockouts)
Trainer: Brendon Smith
Fight-by-fight: Click here
The Ring rating: No. 1 lightweight
Biggest victories: Graham Earl, Feb. 17, 2007, TKO 5; Jesus Chavez, April 4, 2009, TKO 8; Vicente Escobedo, Sept. 19, 2009, SD 12; Kevin Mitchell, May 15, 2010, TKO 3.
Losses: Joel Casamayor, March 22, 2008, TKO 10; Juan Diaz, Sept. 6, 2008, SD 12
Skills: Marquez is one of the best technicians in the sport. The Mexican veteran isn’t the slickest boxer out there, but his balance, timing, accuracy, counter- and combination-punching is superb. Every punch Marquez throws is delivered with textbook technique and maximum leverage. Katsidis is a pressure fighter by definition. He has an excellent straight right, a decent jab (when he remembers to use it) and he can get quick combinations off when he’s in close. But the rugged Australian doesn’t rely on technique or skill to win fights; pressure, strength and an iron will are the tools he uses to wear down and overwhelm his opposition.
Power: Katsidis doesn’t possess one-punch KO power, but 22 of his 27 victories have come by way of stoppage because he is a hard, relentless puncher with immense physical strength. The natural lightweight, who could fight effectively at 140 pounds, is a hunter who tries to inflict as much damage as he can with every punch he throws. Marquez, who owns 37 knockouts, has respectable power for a natural featherweight but he doesn’t rely on it to win fights.
Speed and athletic ability: This category is a tough call. Marquez and Katsidis possess equal speed and stamina. Marquez has better reflexes and hand-eye coordination. Katsidis possesses superior power and physical strength.
Defense: This category is not a tough call. Although Marquez is by no means a defensive specialist, he does try to avoid getting hit. Katsidis can’t help but get hit while he does what he does best: attack. Katsidis has shown the ability to pick off incoming punches with his gloves on occasion, and he possesses some upper-body movement, but he tends to lunge forward with his chin up when he lets his hands go. In other words, he is vulnerable when he’s punching. Katsidis is usually tough enough to overcome whatever his opponents throw at him. But when he faces better-skilled fighters with equally strong wills, his defensive shortcomings cost him victories. He had no answer for Diaz’s jab. Casamayor was able to knock him out because he literally ran into the Cuban veteran’s punches.
Experience: This is a no brainer. Apart from a small group of active fighters that include Bernard Hopkins and Pacquiao, there are no world-class fighters as experienced and battled tested against elite opposition as Marquez. The 37-year-old vet is 17½ years into a pro career highlighted by five titles in three weight classes and memorable bouts against future hall of famers Pacquiao, Mayweather, Barrera and Casamayor. Katsidis has fought the likes of Casamayor, Diaz, and Chavez, as well as good young fighters such as Escobedo and Mitchell, but he’s a mere pup compared to Marquez.
Chin: Both fighters have solid whiskers despite suffering numerous knockdowns. Marquez has been down against Pacquiao (four times in two bouts), Mayweather, Barrera, and Norwood but he’s never been stopped. Katsidis was dropped by Earl and by Casamayor (three times), who stopped him in the 10th round of their barnburner. In most cases, Marquez and Katsidis were knocked down by fast fighters who connected with punches they didn’t see. Marquez gets the nod in this category having twice battled the distance with a punisher like Pacquiao, as well as 12 rounds with the much heavier Mayweather.
Conditioning: Few fighters train with as much dedication and passion as Marquez and Katsidis. Both men lead Spartan lifestyles, and both are consummate professionals when it comes to preparing themselves for each fight. The only difference between the two is that Marquez gears his training more toward endurance, while Katsidis focuses more on explosive offense and physical strength.
Wear and tear: Both men have taken their lumps in the ring, but Marquez has eight more years of ring wear than Katsidis, who turned pro in 2001 and has stopped most of his opponents (12 within the first three rounds). As Marquez has aged and gone up in weight, he’s been more willing to exchange punches with his opponents. He gets the better of them more often than not, but his face does not hold up as well as it used to. Marquez sports severe facial swelling and lacerations even in fights he dominates, such as his rematch with Diaz and his shootout with Terdsak Kokietgym (AKA Jandaeng).
Corner: Brendan Smith has done a tremendous job developing Katsidis, managing the fighter‘s career and working his corner. Smith’s rapport with his fighter is among the best in boxing. He can communicate with Katsidis no matter how tense the situation in the ring and he’s very good at settling Katsidis down between rounds. But Nacho Beristain is one of the top five Mexican trainers of all time, and Marquez (with all due respect to the great Ricardo Lopez) might be his prize pupil. Their bond is every bit as strong as the one between Smith and Katsidis.
Outcome: Katsidis will not start as quickly as most expect him to. The rugged Australian will attempt to assess Marquez’s power and style, and he’ll eat a lot of stiff jabs and right hands as a result. Katsidis will enjoy periodic success when he’s able to back the veteran to the ropes, but Marquez will counter punch well enough to take the first three rounds of the bout. Smith will instruct Katsidis to step up his pressure in round four and the pace of the bout will intensify in the middle rounds as the younger challenger quickly closes the distance and connects with brutal overhand rights and compact left hooks. Marquez counters with body shots and uppercuts, but he’s surprised by the quickness of Katsidis’ punches, shaken by the challenger’s power and pushed back on his heels by the stronger man. The faces of both fighters are marked up by the start of the eighth round. Marquez is ahead on the scorecards, but there is a sense of urgency in his corner because his left eye is badly swollen and could be completely shut before the championship rounds. Marquez re-establishes his jab in the eighth round and utilizes some side-to-side movement whenever Katsidis lunges in close. Marquez is the more accurate puncher in the trenches. He lands picture-perfect uppercuts (both left and right) and left hooks and gives Katsidis angles in close that have the younger man swinging and missing. However, Katsidis, inspired by the recent death of his brother, is undaunted in his pursuit. Though he clearly loses rounds eight and nine, his constant pressure begins to take a toll on Marquez in the 10th, and the relentless challenger is able to score with devastating body shots. Katsidis bullies Marquez to the ropes in and works over the aging champ’s body in rounds 11 and 12. Marquez digs deep and lands combinations off the ropes that momentarily stun Katsidis in the same stanzas. Marquez battles with a shut left eye, a swollen right eye and a badly lacerated upper lip. Katsidis fights with a swollen left cheekbone and blood pouring from his nose and small cuts under both eyes. The two go toe-to-toe in the final 30 seconds of the 12th as the crowd gives them a well-deserved standing ovation.
Prediction: Marquez by close, perhaps majority decision.