Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Michael Katsidis
Nov. 27, 2010, MGM Grand, Las Vegas
The main event
Comment: Although many considered this lightweight championship to be a mismatch, hardcore fans expected it to be fun while lasted. It was a mismatch in terms of skill, technique and precision punching — attributes that all favored the champion — but the brute strength, relentless pressure and courage of the challenger made the fight an absolute thrill ride while it lasted. Marquez fought as hard as — perhaps harder than — he did in last year’s Fight of the Year against Juan Diaz but he did so while being backed up by an even stronger challenger for most of the fight. Katsidis was as rugged as advertised and he managed to do what Diaz couldn’t — drop the future hall of famer on his back. The hard knockdown that Marquez suffered in the third round injected instant drama into what was already heating up to be a good scrap. The furious finish to the third round was pure bliss for fans, and rounds four through eight were as good as boxing gets. The only drawback to the fight was its lack of a conclusive ending due to referee Kenny Bayless’ decision to wave the fight off while a clearly hurt Katsidis was still on his feet in the ninth round. However, most fans, even the most bloodthirsty of diehards, agreed that the stoppage was a good one.
Comment: Marquez is at an age (37) when most fighters — even great ones — look to cut corners in fights by boxing in spurts and employing stalling tactics such as holding. However, the lightweight champ fights the way most world-class boxers in their 20s should conduct themselves in the ring. Marquez fights for three minutes of every round — hard, if need be. He doesn’t try to avoid exchanges, even when confronted by a powerful bull like Katsidis, he doesn’t attempt to run out the clock, and he isn‘t content to merely out-point his opponents. This type of warrior mentality is celebrated in young fighters. It should be cherished in a fighter who has as many years (almost 18) in this tough sport as Marquez does. Marquez, the far superior technician, had the skill to make his fight with Katsidis a much easier one. He chose to match the offensive output of the younger, stronger man and he beat the spirited challenger at his own game. Who knows how many more wars the veteran can engage in before it takes its toll? All we can do is appreciate him while he’s here.
Comment: We all knew Katsidis would come to fight but he exceeded expectations by dropping Marquez in the third round, forcing the champ to back up for most of the fight, and by making the veteran fight at a frenzied pace that would have wasted most prize fighters in their late 30s. Although his punch-connect ratio was far below that of Marquez, Katsidis was able to land 155 of the 484 power punches he threw for a respectable 32-percent connect rate. However, he needed to jab more on his way inside, where did almost all of his work. Katsidis only connected with 39 jabs during 8 1/2 rounds of action.
Nacho Beristain, Marquez’s trainer
Comment: Beristain made sure his prize pupil was physically conditioned for a war of attrition against Katsidis and wisely devised an offensive game plan that included a concentrated body attack to wear down the spirited No. 1 contender. Who knew that Marquez could throw such a beautiful left hook to the body? Beristain did, and he made sure his fighter worked that particular punch along with a consistent jab and his usual accurate combinations in every round of the fight.
Brendan Smith, Katsidis’s trainer
Comment: Smith did a good job of calming Katsidis down while keeping his fighter focused between rounds, but he didn’t provide much in the way of explicit instruction during the one-minute rest periods. Most of Smith’s technical advice to Katsidis could be heard during the fight. Perhaps that’s the system the two have, but it seems as if it would be difficult to listen to your trainer when you’re catching four-punch combinations upside your noggin.
Comment: The judges had Marquez ahead by two scores of 77-74 and a razor-thin tally of 76-75, which is closer than most television viewers had the fight. However, as close to the action as they were, the judges probably got a better sense of the impact of Katsidis’ punches than those who watched the fight on TV. Most of the ringside boxing writers scored the fight 77-74 for Marquez, but a few veteran scribes also had the 76-75 tally (or five rounds to three with one 10-8 round for Katsidis). Earlier in the evening, the judges correctly rewarded the aggression of huge underdog Jason Litzau with a well-earned 10-round split decision over Celestino Caballero.
Comment: Kenny Bayless stayed out of the way and let Marquez and Katsidis duke it out for most of the fight. His non-intrusive officiating is why he’s one of my favorite referees. However, you can call me a traditionalist, “old school,” or a sick sadistic ghoul but I wanted to see whether Katsidis could somehow survive the final minute of the ninth round or go out on his shield like the true warrior he is. I don’t disagree with the stoppage but I think it took some of the drama away from the best fight of 2010.
Comment: The crowd was engaged and appreciative of the monumental effort of both lightweights. Mexican fans cheered after every combination that Marquez landed (and there were a lot of them) while a very vocal contingent of Australian fans chanted the national war cry of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie — Oye, Oye, Oye!” from the opening bell. However, the turnout, just under 5,000, was disappointing, and rumor has that the casino handed out a fair amount of comps. That said, the size of the crowd was not terrible considering the economy and the fact that it was Thanksgiving weekend.
Comment: The televised undercard of Caballero-Litzau and Andre Berto-Freddy Hernandez was better than expected considering that Caballero, who was as much as a 15-to-1 favorite, was upset in a mildly entertaining 10-round junior lightweight bout. Berto, a 10-to-1 favorite, did what he was expected to do in beating Hernandez but at least the young welterweight titleholder did so in dominating and entertaining fashion, scoring a one-punch, first-round stoppage. Berto’s quick dismissal of his unworthy challenger gave fans an adrenaline jolt before the main event thriller and kept the HBO World Championship Boxing broadcast from running too long.
Note: We will be putting together report cards regularly after selected big fights to give readers an idea how various players performed.
Doug Fischer can be reached at email@example.com